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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 23rd, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)


Toothless move? Experts doubt efficacy of Hezbollah blacklist.

July 23, 2013
By Kareem Shaheen
of The Daily Star of Beirut.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, talks with Italian Foreign Minister Emma Bonino, and Malta’s Foreign Minister George Vella during the EU foreign ministers meeting, at the European Council building in Brussels, July 22, 2013 – as per an AP photo.

BEIRUT: The blacklisting of Hezbollah’s military wing is a message warning the party over its involvement in Syria and activities in Europe and would only have a limited effect, experts and analysts said Monday. Few saw a distinction between the group’s military and political wings, saying it would be prohibitively difficult to target military cadres and assets, and arguing that the party had few financial resources in Europe that could be subject to sanctions.

But they said the decision to blacklist the military wing would make it easier to carry out investigations in concert with European intelligence agencies into Hezbollah’s fundraising and militant activities.

“They distinguish between the military and political wing when in reality there isn’t much distinction,” said Nadim Shehadi, an associate fellow at the Middle East and North Africa Programme in Chatham House.

“But it’s a way of creating constructive ambiguity to maintain engagement at the same time as sending a strong message.”

The EU maintains contact with Hezbollah on a variety of issues, including the activities of UNIFIL, the peacekeeping force on the border with Israel, and on joint projects between the EU and Lebanon.

Shehadi argued the distinction made it possible for the EU to continue talking to Hezbollah, likening the measure to the U.K.’s decision to distinguish between the Provisional Irish Republican Army, which fought a protracted insurgency against British rule, and its political wing, Sinn Fein, allowing negotiations to end the fighting.

“The introduction of a separation between the military wing and the political wing gives a way out,” he said.

Hezbollah itself does not distinguish between its two wings.

“This is long overdue,” said Matthew Levitt, a former deputy assistant secretary for intelligence and analysis at the U.S. Treasury Department. “Hezbollah has believed that it could mix militancy, terrorism, crime on the one hand, and politics and social welfare on the other.”

“They felt that by virtue of being involved in politics they got a free out-of-jail-card and they could blow up buses of civilians in Bulgaria and try to do so in Cyprus, partner with Iran in Syria, and much more,” said Levitt, who testified recently before the EU Parliament in support of blacklisting all of Hezbollah.

But a senior Arab diplomat in Beirut, who declined to be identified because he was not authorized to speak on the issue, said this distinction meant the decision would have no impact on the ground.

“You cannot distinguish between the civil and military wing of the party,” he said. “How would you define that this person is a member of the military wing? And does the military wing have any exposed assets that you can restrict or freeze? It is very difficult to implement this decision.”

Levitt said the decision would have no impact on Hezbollah finances in Europe since there are few known assets belonging to the military wing there, but he said it would open up avenues for intelligence operations investigating the party and would send a clear deterrent message.

European countries have been reluctant to carry out “proactive” intelligence investigations into Hezbollah since it was not labeled a military organization, said Levitt, who is a senior fellow and director of the Washington Institute’s Stein Program on Counterterrorism and Intelligence. He has also written a book on the party called “Hezbollah: The Global Footprints of Lebanon’s Party of God.”

Such investigations will now be carried out if a link can be established to potential Hezbollah militancy, he said: “It is very likely that Hezbollah will curtail the amount of its activities in Europe having to do with militancy or fundraising because they know that these investigations are going to be run.”

Further, he said, Hezbollah could no longer treat Europe as a “near abroad” where it could carry out such activities.

He said Hezbollah was already under enormous pressure due to its involvement in Syria and the accusations against four of its operatives by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon over the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

Domestically, the Arab official said the decision was likely to worsen the political deadlock in Lebanon, increasing what he termed “Hezbollah’s siege mentality” and compelling it to hold onto its political positions.

The party is now unlikely, for instance, to allow the government formation to go ahead without it being represented in the Cabinet.

Experts differed on the impetus and timing behind the decision.

Shehadi said the decision was the result of the party’s implicated in the Burgas bombing last year targeting Israeli tourists, and was part of an ongoing process that began after the assassination of Imad Mughniyeh. Mughniyeh, Hezbollah’s former military chief, was killed in Damascus in 2008, prompting the party to acknowledge his military role. He is accused of involvement in a number of attacks including the 1983 bombing of a U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut.

The Arab diplomat said the timing of the decision was likely the result of a combination of pressure by the U.S. and Israel to compensate for a recent decision by the EU to boycott products made in West Bank settlements.

He said it appeared to be influenced by Hezbollah’s involvement in Syria, rather any potential role for the party in the bombing in Burgas.

“I wouldn’t back something like this if there is no strong evidence that the party is involved in terrorist activity on European territory, and until now I can’t say there is enough evidence for an accusation,” he said.

The diplomat said that Hezbollah officials repeatedly said in meetings they had no assets or financial activity in Europe, so that any such freeze would have no impact on the party.

Legally, the decision will represent a greater challenge to the Lebanese government than to Hezbollah, said Chafic Masri, a professor of international law. He said the Lebanese government would have to help the EU distinguish between military and civilian cadres in the party.

Further, only the EU is legally empowered to add individuals to the list.

“It is challenging because now anyone who may be elected as a parliamentary member or selected as a minister will remain subject to the de facto approval of the EU,” Masri said. “This is not just confusing but embarrassing as well to the Lebanese government.”

———————–

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star of Berut on July 23, 2013, on page 3.

Read more: www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Analysi…
(The Daily Star :: Lebanon News :: www.dailystar.com.lb)

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Israel’s Foreign Ministry had some help from Hollywood in convincing at least one country to label Hezbollah’s military wing a terrorist organization, according to Hebrew-language daily Maariv.

Actor Arnold Schwarzenegger, an Austrian by birth and the former governor of California, sent a letter to the country’s chancellor, Werner Faymann, to express his belief in the importance of an EU move to blacklist the Lebanese terror organization.

According to Maariv, Austria initially vehemently opposed the move, but Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to Austria Chancellor Feymann and the country’s president Fischer, and with the help of Schwarzenegger was able to convince the Austrians to support the measure.

The decision to put Hezbollah’s military wing on the European Union terror list required the unanimous consent of the bloc’s 28 members and was passed unanimously.
Israel’s Foreign Ministry lobbied several EU holdouts, such as Ireland, in recent months to pass the measure.

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Hezbollah and its involvement in Syria have already bankrupted politically Lebanon – this starting with the killing On February 14, 2005 with Syrian involvement of Prime Minister Rafic Hariri. His son, Saad Hariri was Prime Minister 2009 – 2011 but for his personal security he prefers to stay in Saudi Arabia from where he manages his family wealth. The Hariris are Sunni Muslim billionaires and it would be dangerous for him to go back again to the Lebanese infighting.

This is described in the same issue of The Daily Star – at www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Politic…

The United Nations special tribunal (see Special Tribunal for Lebanon) investigating the murder of Hariri is expected to issue draft indictments accusing Hezbollah of murdering Hariri.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The UPDATE is today’s meeting of the UN Security Council and Israel Permanent Representative to the UN, Ambassador Ron Prosor, presenting the Israeli case:

To watch the live webcast, please see: webtv.un.org/

Attached are Ambassador Prosor’s talking points from today’s speech as received from the Israeli Mission to the UN.

Today, Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, Ron Prosor, spoke during the UN Security Council’s Open Debate on “The Situation in the Middle East.” Please find the full text of his remarks attached, as well as a photograph (photo credit: UN Photo/JC McIlwaine).

In his speech, Ambassador Prosor commends the EU for labeling Hezbollah’s military wing a terrorist organization, but noted that the decision came after decades of allowing Hezbollah to operate freely on European soil. He said: “At long last, having realized how dangerous Hezbollah is and what it is capable of, the EU showed up late to the party to condemn the ‘Party of God.'”

He also said:

• Hezbollah “is as sophisticated as it is interconnected. Any attempt to distinguish between Hezbollah’s military wing and political wing, while politically convenient, is entirely impractical…Not even Harry Houdini could pull off the illusion that there is a difference between these two groups. Europe took a significant step in the right direction, but it must go one step further and demonstrate its unequivocal condemnation of terror.”

Ambassador Prosor also sharply criticized the EU for deciding to limit its funding for institutions in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the Golan. He said:

• “While the United States has been working to bring the parties back to the negotiation table, the EU prefers to table harmful and divisive measures. Just as a window of opportunity opened for the resumption of talks, the EU seemed intent on slamming it shut. Instead of setting a course towards peace, the EU is steering the Palestinians in the wrong direction.”

Finally, Ambassador Prosor discussed the Iranian elections. He said: “For those who thought that the so-called Arab Spring sweeping the Middle East would cause Jeffersonian democracies to sprout, take note. [Hassan] Rowhani may have been given a starring role in the charade of Iranian democracy – but the fundamentalist Ayatollah remains its choreographer, director, and executive producer.” He also said:

“Even with a new conductor, Iran’s nuclear weapons program continues to advance at the speed of an express train. In contrast, the international community’s efforts are moving at the pace of a local train, pausing at every stop for some nations to get off and some nations to get on…The sanctions are working, but they are not enough. You must increase pressure on Iran until it stops all enrichment, removes all enriched material, closes its illegal nuclear facility in Qom, and ends its support for terrorism.”

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Statement delivered by UK Ambassador and Permanent Representative Mark Lyall Grant to UN Security Council Open Debate on the Situation in the Middle East – 23 July 2013


Madam President,

I thank Robert Serry for his briefing and the Permanent Observer of Palestine and the Permanent Representative of Israel for their statements.

The government of the United Kingdom warmly welcomes Secretary Kerry’s 19 July announcement that Israel and the Palestinians have reached an agreement that establishes the basis for resuming direct final status negotiations.

We pay tribute to the efforts of Secretary Kerry and his team, and commend the leadership shown by both Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas. The United Kingdom stands ready to do all that we can over the coming months to support the parties and the United States in their efforts to achieve a lasting peace for the Israeli and Palestinian people.

The European Union set out clearly its full support for US efforts at yesterday’s Foreign Affairs Council. There is also a vital role for Arab states to build on the constructive steps taken so far to reiterate the strategic importance of the Arab Peace Initiative.

Friday’s announcement is of course only a beginning, not an end. We welcome Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas’ clear commitment to a two-state solution and to work to achieve peace for the Israeli and Palestinian peoples. Now more than ever, it is vital that both show bold and decisive leadership.

With this new momentum, the Israeli and Palestinian people must be able to trust that progress is possible. This would be undermined by a repeat of recent events such as further settlement announcements, the use of live fire in demonstrations by the Israeli Defence Forces and rockets from Gaza into Israel. We urge all sides to exercise restraint and look forward.

As talks resume, we should not forget Gaza. Gaza must be an integral part of any two-state solution. As our Minister for the Middle East saw last month, for ordinary Gazans the Strip remains a desperately difficult place to live. In the heat of summer, Gazans face very poor living conditions, including regular and sustained power cuts.

It will be important that Gaza benefits fully from any economic package which is being prepared to accompany the political track, including the easing of Israeli restrictions on movements of goods and people. The United Kingdom believes that an improved economy is not only essential for the people, including the children, of Gaza, but firmly in Israel’s security interests.

Current US efforts, and the strong commitment shown by the parties themselves, reflect the best chance for many years of securing peace. We must all unite to help reach our shared goal of a negotiated two-state solution where a safe and secure Israel can live in peace with an independent and viable Palestinian state.

Madam President, turning to Syria.

It was with great dismay that we heard Valerie Amos’ briefing before this Council last week. It is truly shocking that more than 6 million people require humanitarian assistance and that 4 million people are no longer able to meet their basic food needs yet the Assad regime continues to prevent the United Nations from delivering aid effectively inside Syria.

With the death toll now well over 100,000, the situation in Syria gets worse by the day. Since last July an average of nearly 200 people have been killed every 24 hours.

What started off as peaceful protests over two years ago has become a protracted conflict by a murderous regime, aided and abetted by Hizballah and Iran. The Assad regime has continued to ramp up its brutal military offensive over recent months, as witnessed today in Homs, where thousands of innocent civilians are currently trapped in their homes with limited access to food, water or electricity.

Madam President,

The countries of the region have already provided sanctuary to 1.7 million Syrians. More will come. We urge all neighbouring countries to keep their borders open for Syrians to escape the tragic and dangerous situation they are facing at home.

In response, the United Kingdom has doubled its support for humanitarian assistance, bringing the total to over half a billion dollars, including support for Syrian refugees and host communities in Jordan and Lebanon. G8 countries last month committed over $1.5 billion. Yet, the UN’s $5.2 billion Syria appeal for 2013 is only 35 per cent funded. The needs for aid in Syria will sadly only grow, and without help Lebanon and Jordan risk being destabilised. Member states need to contribute more, and encourage others to do more, now and in the long term.

Madam President,

The continuing deterioration of the human rights situation is also of grave concern. The Commission of Inquiry’s latest report found that the conflict had reached new levels of brutality. War crimes, crimes against humanity and gross human rights violations continue at a frightening rate. We remain at the forefront of the international community in calling for full accountability for all those responsible for human rights violations and abuses. This Council should refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court without delay.

Madam President,

There is a growing body of limited but persuasive information showing that the regime has used and continues to use chemical weapons, including sarin. Use of chemical weapons is a war crime. We call on Syria to allow the UN unfettered access to investigate incidents of chemical weapons use in Syria.

On 17 June, the G8 re-affirmed support for a second conference in Geneva, leading to the creation of a transitional governing body with full executive powers. Yet the regime’s offensive of recent weeks has made it even harder for this conference to take place.

We continue to support the expanded National Coalition and its new president, Ahmed al-Jarba. The Coalition remains the most legitimate and credible representative of the Syrian people. They have made clear their commitment to a future democratic Syria in which the rights of all Syrians are respected. We must not conflate this moderate opposition with terrorist groups.

We must not accept what Assad wants us to believe – that the only alternative to his brutal regime is extremists and terrorists. There are millions of Syrians who want a peaceful and democratic future, and legitimate forces that are fighting for their interests. We should be on their side.

Madam President,

Despite our differences – this Council shares some fundamental aims: to end the conflict, to stop Syria fragmenting, to let the people decide who governs them and to prevent the growth of violent extremism. As a Council we need to recommit to working with the Parties in a meaningful way towards a viable political settlement, based on last year’s Geneva Communiqué.

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