By Benny Avni
Under pressure from Washington, Europe is finally edging toward calling one of the world’s leading terrorist organizations a . . . well, terrorist organization.
Yesterday Bulgaria’s foreign minister, Nikolay Mladenov, told European Union officials gathered in Brussels that his country has clear evidence of Hezbollah’s involvement in a deadly act of terrorism on European soil.
Mladenov summed up a months-long investigation into a bombing in Burgas, Bulgaria last July. Five Israeli tourists and a local driver were killed along with the Lebanese-born man who’d planted a bomb on a bus carrying vacationers from the Burgas airport to the Black Sea.
The Bulgarian report on the bombing, which was finalized last week, detailed how clues, including some found on the dead bomber’s body, led investigators to the terror attack’s planners – two Hezbollah operatives who apparently used Australian and Canadian ID in their travels around the continent.
“We in Europe need to take collective measures to make sure that such attacks will never happen again on EU soil,” Mladenov told his colleagues in Brussels .
But this being Europe, a reporter couldn’t resist asking the Bulgarian minister if his investigation was overly influenced by Israel and America.
Hezbollah debuted on the world stage with the 1983 bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut, where 241 Americans perished. The attack also killed 58 French troops, yet France has since been a leader among Europeans in opposing the designation of Hezbollah as a terrorist group.
Why? Well, thinkers in Paris and Berlin theorize that groups like Hezbollah have two distinct wings, “military” and “political.” Naming the whole organization “terrorist,” they argue, weakens Hezbollah’s statesmen and slows down their integration into Lebanon’s legitimate political-party structure.
Yet Hezbollah’s politics are pure “Sopranos.” In the last decade, the Shiite group and its allies managed to gain majorities in Lebanon’s parliament only after assassinating Christian or Sunni opponents.
But the Europeans also have more practical reasons to avoid confrontation with Hezbollah. France, Italy and others sent thousands of troops for the UN mission deployed in southern Lebanon’s Hezbollah-land after the 2006 Israeli-Hezbollah war. Upsetting the terrorists could lead to major confrontations that would endanger these soldiers.
Plus, millions of Muslim and Arab immigrants are emerging as a major political force in some European countries – and many deeply sympathize with the Shiite organization’s war on the “infidels.”
Then there’s the complicated relations with Hezbollah’s chief benefactor, Iran.
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton has become the West’s chief interlocutor to Tehran. She’s the most enthusiastic advocate of “engagement” with the mullahs over their nuclear aspirations. She’s to chair a round of talks between Tehran and the major powers planned for Feb. 26 in Kazakhstan, where she’ll plead with Iran: What kind of concessions can we offer to facilitate a diplomatic way out of the nuke impasse?
Fearing the collapse of her Kazakhstan session, Ashton doesn’t want to hear fresh proof of terrorism by Iran’s Hezbollah pawns. Last week, after Bulgaria presented its evidence, she said only that the EU must now “reflect” over the investigation’s results.
Not all Europeans are so wishy-washy. The Netherlands, for one, unilaterally put Hezbollah on its terrorist list back in 2008. And Britain is now lobbying the entire EU to do the same.
As are Canada and the Obama administration, which deserves some kudos.
“We need to send an unequivocal message to this terrorist group that it can no longer engage in despicable actions with impunity,” Secretary of State John Kerry said last week, referring to Hezbollah. Yesterday, Obama’s national security adviser, Tom Donilon, penned an op-ed pleading with Europe to name it a terror organization.
Hezbollah raises much of its cash on European soil; if the EU finally lists it as a terrorist group, those funds will dry up. And Hezbollah recruiters and operatives would be denied crucial entry to Europe.
That won’t end Hezbollah’s nefarious activities; it will remain Iran’s most potent terrorist arm. But it will reduce the bloodshed.
Of course, first the Europeans will have to adjust their theories to fit reality.
Source: THE NEW YORK POST