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The EU must respond to the deadly threat posed by Iran and Hizbollah
Now that Osama bin Laden is at the bottom of the ocean, a new man has emerged as the world’s most dangerous terrorist: Qassem Suleimani. Although unfamiliar to most in the West, he is responsible for killing many thousands in cold blood – and masterminding the murder of more Americans than any other person on earth.
Suleimani heads the Quds Force of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard – the nerve centre of its global terrorist network. Working with Hizbollah in Lebanon, he has plotted, attempted and executed mass murder in dozens of countries.
The centrifuges spinning in Iran are dangerously close to providing these ruthless global terrorists with a nuclear arsenal and protective umbrella. Yet instead of pulling out all the stops to prevent this, Europe is opening its own backyard as a playground. In particular, the European Union continues to define Hizbollah as a charitable and political group, not a terrorist organisation. This is no less ridiculous than describing the Mafia as a chamber of commerce or the Ku Klux Klan as a gentleman’s social club.
While Hizbollah continues to promote extremism and strike targets in the heart of Europe, it has free rein to raise millions from supporters as if it were the Red Cross. Its European rallies attract thousands. Its operatives have ample space to inspire, recruit and train future terrorists. Last month, Hizbollah and Iran carried out the deadliest terrorist act in Europe since 2005, blowing up a bus of Israeli families on holiday in Bulgaria. When asked if this might prompt a change in policy, one EU foreign minister said: “Should there be tangible evidence of Hizbollah engaging in acts of terrorism, the EU would consider listing the organisation [as a terrorist group].”
Tangible evidence? Iran and Hizbollah have slaughtered scores of men, women and children in bombings from Argentina to Saudi Arabia to Bulgaria. They have ruthlessly targeted US servicemen, killing hundreds in direct attacks – such as the bombing of a marine barracks in Lebanon in 1983 – and many more through proxies in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Suleimani and Hizbollah’s head, Hassan Nasrallah, continue to take extended vacations to Syria, where they serve on Bashar al-Assad’s Advisory Board, telling him how to butcher his people more effectively – and directing their own forces in the murder of Syrian civilians. The plots extend all the way to Washington, where their operatives recently planned to murder the Saudi ambassador at a restaurant frequented by members of Congress.
While the EU does somersaults trying to explain its position, Hizbollah’s leaders have no illusions about the importance of maintaining this fertile ground. By using and abusing European democratic processes, courts and civil society, they have a base to launder their drug profits from around the world – and a perch to win over vulnerable Europeans to poisonous extremism.
Nasrallah recently admitted that being on the European terrorist list would “destroy Hizbollah”, drying up sources of financial, political and moral support. You only have to look across the Atlantic to see how such a policy could yield dramatic results. Recently, US prosecutors announced that they had seized $150 million of Hizbollah’s cash – nearly half of its estimated annual budget. Imagine the impact the EU could have if it struck at the organisation’s financial base on this continent.
During the battle against the Nazis, Churchill said: “We must be united, we must be undaunted, we must be inflexible.” As it confronts a global, state-backed terrorist network within reach of nuclear weapons, the world must heed that advice. The greatest single danger to global peace and security cannot be confronted with loopholes and half-measures. It is time for the EU – and all responsible nations – to respond meaningfully to the magnitude of the threat. The lives of many innocents hang in the balance.