* Ebtesam Al-Ketbi is the president of the UAE Policy Center and Ron Prosor is an Israeli diplomat, president of the Abba Eban Institute. The two personalities publish here for the first time a joint forum in which they urge the French authorities to join the nine European countries, including Germany and the United Kingdom, which have designated Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, and to act for that this designation also be adopted by the European Union.
International relations are governed by the implacable logic of power relations and generalized competition between States. It is rare that the opportunity arises to bring together at the same time the strategic interests of two continents that everything seems to oppose. France now has such an opportunity. Paris could, in consultation with its European partners, defend the Old Continent against the Islamist offensive and save Lebanon and other countries in the Middle East from collapse. In doing so, France would allow this region of the world not to fall into the hands of the Iranian theocracy and the fundamentalist Shiite militia of Hezbollah, its centerpiece in the land of the Cedars.
In Europe, Islamist terrorism has struck again. Only five years after the massacre perpetrated by the Kouachi brothers on the premises of Charlie Hebdo, France witnessed a barbaric crime that claimed the life of Samuel Paty. The history-geography professor had however only done his job by teaching students the freedom of expression and the critical spirit which are at the basis of the republican project. Speaking at Samuel Paty’s funeral, President Macron declared that the professor “was killed because the Islamists want our future and know that with quiet heroes like him they will never have it”.
No one will be surprised to learn that this strong statement has been freshly received by Islamists of all stripes, Shiites and Sunnis. In an official statement, Hezbollah expressed its “categorical rejection of the official French position which encourages this dangerous offense against the Prophet”.
Armed arm of Iran, the “party of God” is part of this Islamist international which largely orchestrated the anti-French campaign in the Middle East. This calculated hostility echoes the work of the Shiite Islamist militia to undermine French mediation in Lebanon. The French president had logically assumed a role of mediator given the historical, linguistic and economic links which unite France to the country of the Cedar. Emmanuel Macron devised a roadmap that would have enabled Lebanon to emerge from the political doldrums and avert the risk of financial bankruptcy. Hezbollah did everything to destroy this initiative which would have called into question its hostile takeover of Lebanon.
The “party of God” has methodically developed its grip on the land of the Cedars over the years. This military, political and economic takeover was orchestrated by the Iranian theocracy. The IRGC, the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution, created from scratch the “party of God” in 1982 to impose Shiite Islamist ideology on the Levant. Hezbollah first took control of the south of the country, before expanding its influence over the entire Lebanese territory.
While the international community in general and Europe in particular have looked away, the military capabilities of the Islamist militia have significantly increased at the expense of the Lebanese army. The firepower of the “party of God” now exceeds that of some NATO member countries. With the help of Iranian mullahs and Syria of Bashar al-Assad, Hezbollah has become a veritable army of terrorists involved in most regional crises. The Gulf Cooperation Council, the Arab League and Israel have acknowledged this destabilizing role by classifying the Shia Islamist militia as a terrorist organization.
State within state, Hezbollah exercises control over the country’s critical infrastructure. Nothing enters or leaves the port or the airport of Beirut without the “party of God” knowing. However, the deadly explosion at the port of Beirut took place in an ammonium nitrate storage unit for which Hezbollah was in charge. The role and responsibility of the Shiite militia in this terrible tragedy must be examined in the framework of an independent international investigation.
Hezbollah’s disruptive activities are not simply a threat to Lebanon’s national security and an obstacle to that country’s sovereignty. Members of the “party of God” have also been arrested in Europe for illegal possession of large quantities of ammonium nitrate. According to Western intelligence services, Hezbollah agents were planning a series of terrorist attacks on European soil. These attempted bombings have led to several European countries, including the United Kingdom (February 2019), the Netherlands (April 2020), Germany (April 2020) and Lithuania (August 2020), Estonia and the Czech Republic (October 2020), to ban all Hezbollah activity on their territory and to label the Shiite Islamist militia as terrorist, without distinction between its military and political branches.
We recall for all practical purposes that it was a Franco-Lebanese national and member of Hezbollah who committed the 2012 attack at Bourgas airport, in Bulgaria. Five Israeli tourists were killed and around thirty seriously injured were counted.
Hezbollah has created a true parallel economy in Lebanon. It practices tax evasion on a very large scale and directs arms and goods smuggling operations through the 140 illegal crossings it controls. This parallel economy deprives the Lebanese Treasury of about a third of its annual income. Hezbollah also runs international drug trafficking networks. Some European countries, including France, have served or continue to serve as a transit point for money laundering, which contributes to the financing of the terrorist activities of the Islamist militia.
Hezbollah betrayed the Lebanese people.
Finally, Hezbollah exercises its stranglehold on the Lebanese political arena. Hassan Nasrallah, its leader, did everything in his power to oppose the overhaul of the Lebanese political system and perpetuate a clientelist policy to the detriment of the interests of the Lebanese population. This scorched earth strategy thwarted the French initiative, killing the hope of a way out of the crisis. It also risks plunging Lebanon into the abyss of civil war, as inter-community tensions are so high. During a press conference at the Elysee Palace on September 27, President Macron rightly considered that Hezbollah had “betrayed the Lebanese people”, adding that the Shiite Islamist organization “cannot at the same time be an army in war against Israel, a militia unleashed against civilians in Syria and a respectable party in Lebanon. It is up to him to demonstrate that he respects the Lebanese as a whole. He has […] clearly shown to the contrary ”.
It is time for Paris to draw the logical conclusions from this relentless diagnosis by taking note of the terrorist nature of this Shiite Islamist organization. We call on France to join the nine European countries which have designated Hezbollah in its entirety as a terrorist organization and to act in concert with them so that this designation is adopted as a common position by the European Union.
By contenting itself with banning the only military branch of the Shiite Islamist movement, the EU as such and some of its member states are in flagrant contradiction with the needs of the fight against terrorism, yet defined as an absolute priority by the Council. European.
This strategy of maintaining the fiction of a two-headed Islamist Janus is as flawed as it is ineffective. It has de facto contributed to giving “carte blanche” to Hezbollah to develop, under the guise of political activities, a criminal and mafia network involved in drug trafficking and the financing of terrorism on the Old Continent. It has clearly failed to contain the harmful and destabilizing influence of the Islamist militia in Lebanon, the Middle East, but also in Europe.
A clarification is needed. It’s time for President Macron to walk the talk by naming Hezbollah for what it is – a terrorist organization. In doing so, France would be consistent in its fight against terrorism and against the scourge of Islamic radicalism. Finally, by freeing Lebanon from the grip of Hezbollah, Paris would allow this country to break the deadlock and benefit from the support of international financial institutions which it so badly needs. This designation and strong punitive measures against those responsible for this Islamist terrorist movement are therefore necessary. It is high time to act.