UK Bans Hezbollah

British Home Secretary Sajid Javid recently proscribed the Iranian terrorist proxy organization, Hezbollah (‘Party of God’) in its entirety under the UK Terrorism Act 2000, a government decision that the UK Parliament also recently approved.[1]

“There have long been calls to ban the whole group with the distinction between the two factions derided as smoke and mirrors,” Javid said during a debate on the prevention and suppression of terrorism in the House of Commons. “Hezbollah themselves have laughed off the suggestion there is a difference. I’ve carefully considered the evidence and I’m satisfied they are one and the same with the entire organisation linked to terrorism.”

In banning the entire organization of Hezbollah, the UK joins Canada, the U.S., Israel, the Netherlands and the Arab League, which have all banned the terror organization.

According to the UK Terrorism Act 2000, membership or professed membership of a proscribed terrorist organization is an offense, and so is supporting it, not just financially, but also voicing support and advocating for it, as well as publicly displaying the insignia or other articles of that organization, such as its flag. Offenders are liable to imprisonment of up to 10 years. The yearly Al Quds Day march in London, in which support for Hezbollah was openly displayed through the public waving of the Hezbollah flag, for instance, has now, with the banning of the organization, been made illegal, as have the banners carried at the 2017 Al Quds march in London, which stated, “We are all Hezbollah”.

Significantly, the ban on Hezbollah makes it impossible for the organization legally to raise funds in the UK at a time when the organization is beginning to face financial difficulties, as a result of the pressure exerted by the reinstated US sanctions against Iran, Hezbollah’s main sponsor. “The sanctions and terror lists are a form of warfare against the resistance and we must deal with them as such,” said Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah recently in a televised speech. “I announce today that we are in need of the support of our popular base”.

The UK’s welcome decision to proscribe Hezbollah in its entirety stands in stark contrast to the rest of the EU, which designated only Hezbollah’s military wing as a terrorist organization in 2013, after a July 2012 Hezbollah terrorist attack in Burgas, Bulgaria killed five Israeli tourists and their local bus driver, and injured another 32 people.

Hezbollah itself, in fact, does not acknowledge having separate ‘wings’. In 2002, Muhammad Fneish, a senior Hezbollah operative and a Hezbollah MP in Lebanon’s Parliament, said on Hezbollah’s television station, Al-Manar:

"They are trying to tempt Hezbollah in order to curb it. The goal is not to harm the political role [of Hezbollah] but rather its military wing. However, I can say that the military wing and the political wing of Hezbollah cannot be separated".

Leading European countries have also not designated Hezbollah a terrorist organization. On March 8, Niels Annen, deputy minister at the Foreign Ministry of Germany, told Der Spiegel that Germany will not declare Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement a terrorist organization, because Germany views it as “a relevant factor in Lebanese society and part of the complex political landscape in the country…” The British move,” he added, “is a national decision that has no direct impact on the position of the German government or the EU”.

Recently, on the 40th anniversary of the Iran’s Islamic revolution, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier sent a telegram to the Iranian regime, carrying “congratulations” on the occasion of the national holiday, “also in the name of my compatriots”. According to a report in Bild, the German president also promised that Germany will continue to do “everything in its power to guarantee the maintenance and continued implementation of the JCPOA,” (the “Iran nuclear deal”). The telegram praised the bilateral relations and promised to “intensely maintain” the dialogue. Only together, is it possible to “overcome the crises and conflicts”, wrote the President.

Incredibly, Steinmeier concluded his telegram by asking the regime “to also listen to the critical voices in your country”. One of those critical voices, a female lawyer who courageously defended Iranian women who removed their hijabs to protest the Iranian regime’s misogynistic treatment, was sentenced recently to 38 years in prison and a flogging of 150 lashes. The Germany Director of Human Rights Watch, Wenzel Michalski, called Steinmeier’s congratulations “shocking”.

Both Germany and the EU are under US pressure to stop circumventing US sanctions on the Iranian regime, but neither appears to be the least bit bothered either by that or by the human rights violations that the regime continues to level at its population. As such, the German president’s telegram is no more shocking than the behavior of those EU member states that refuse to comply with the reimposed US sanctions. On January 31, Britain, France and Germany announced a trade mechanism known as the Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges (INSTEX) that will allow Iran and the EU to keep trading despite the US sanctions and to preserve the JCPOA.

“INSTEX will support legitimate European trade with Iran, focusing initially on the sectors most essential to the Iranian population — such as pharmaceutical, medical devices and agri-food goods,” the foreign ministers of Britain, Germany and France said in a joint statement. In the longer term, INSTEX aims to be open to other countries wanting to trade with Iran, the statement said. Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice President of the European Commission, said INSTEX was “essential for the continued full implementation of the nuclear deal”.

The UK has set a praiseworthy example when it comes to proscribing Hezbollah. The moral thing to do would be for the rest of the EU to follow in proscribing Hezbollah in its entirety and to comply with the renewed US sanctions against its main sponsor, Iran. Or is moral clarity from the EU too much to expect?

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