Sunday, January 13, 2013

13-Jan-13: A French contribution to stopping the terrorists

Hezbollah's fighters, fully aware of the public relations impact,
routinely salute the German Nazi way [Image Source]. What is it that
they are trying to tell us? Now let's think... hmmm. No, couldn't be that.
Benjamin Weinthal writes in today's Jerusalem Post ["French FM: No EU consensus on Hezbollah ban"] about French efforts to block the European Union designating Hezbollah as a terror entity. France, his article says, seeks "to preserve its diplomatic leverage in Lebanon" and "is also concerned about Hezbollah retaliation".

The JPost analysis quotes a French official who refers to "the common position of the Council of the European Union" dating back to December 2001 which requires that "specific measures to fight against terrorism", including adding new names to the list of proscribed terrorist organizations in the EU, must be based on "a consensus among Member States. This consensus is not currently met”, says the official, evidently referring to his own office.

Certain voices in Lebanon (at least) might be pleased to know of France's obstructiveness. In "Should Europe Classify Hezbollah As a Terrorist Group?", published December 27, 2012 on the Washington-based al-Monitor website, Nasser Charrah, a Lebanese whose bio includes a stint at the Palestinian Research Center (formed by the PLO in Beirut in 1965 when Lebanon was the nerve-center of the Arafat-led terrorists) delivers some interesting first-person observations about what Hizbollah does and does not stand for, and likewise for UNIFIL. Some readers may be as surprised as we are by what he reveals.
  • Gen. Alberto Asarta, the Spanish general who for the past three years has served as commander of UNIFIL forces in southern Lebanon, calls the area of southern Lebanon under his operational control "the best and most stable in the whole of the Middle East".
  • Asarta attributes the extraordinary "stability" in the area to Hezbollah’s cooperation with UNIFIL and Hezbollah’s willingness to play host to the UNIFIL presence. (It's hard to escape the conclusion that Asarta, the man in charge of the very UN forces who are supposed to keep Hezbollah away from the Israeli border, and to prevent yet another massive Hezbollah arms-buildup in southern Lebanon's villages, comes across in the direct quotations of this piece as a major admirer of Hezbollah.)
  • In fact, UNIFIL's "stay in southern Lebanon" is no less than "the most successful model when compared to the experiences of other UN peacekeeping missions around the world". But that's not all!
  • Hezbollah has aided UNIFIL in "combating terrorist cells of Islamic extremism in the region who plot against the blue-helmeted soldiers. The best evidence of this last point can be found in the establishment of the four-pronged organization dubbed, “The Partnership against Radical Islamic Terrorism,” which includes the Lebanese army, UNIFIL, Hezbollah and its popular base." 
Actually this makes sense. Though it originates with a Spanish source, it just might persuade the French. Let's get the EU to outsource all of its anti-terrorism strategy to the ideally-named “Partnership against Radical Islamic Terrorism”, and get Hezbollah, UNIFIL and the army of Lebanon to deal with the Islamists. A sure-fire, winning European plan!

But seriously.

We can hardly expect everyone to embrace the neatness of this solution. The Bulgarian Sofia News Agency noted this past week that diplomats in Europe say 
the results of Bulgaria's probe in July's bombing of an Israeli tour bus, including a possible Hezbollah lead, will be "essential" for the EU process to list the Lebanese organization as a terrorist entity... However, Bulgarian officials, including the President, the Prime Minister, and the Foreign Affairs Minister, have been very wary of directly involving Hezbollah, reiterating it all depended on the findings of the ongoing investigation.
That bus bombing was the subject of several posts we made in July 2012, including "20-Jul-12: US says Hezbullah and its primary sponsor Iran executed the Burgas, Bulgaria, killings". Do we know who carried out the airport bombing that brought about the deaths of five Israelis and a Bulgarian bus driver? Hezbollah says it certainly wasn't them: see "Hezbollah on bus bombing: We wouldn't target tourists for revenge", Christian Science Monitor. And the Bulgarians are still investigating. The Washington Post said last Monday that Bulgaria had fired the leader of its investigation into the Burgas airport attack because she leaked "sensitive information" about the probe.
Stanelia Karadzhova told Bulgaria’s 24 Chasa daily that one of three suspected terrorists who carried out the attack at the airport of the Black Sea city in July has been identified and that all the suspects were foreign nationals. The office of the District Prosecutor in Burgas said in a statement Monday that Karadzhova was removed because “she spoke to the media without clearing her statement with the supervising prosecutor.”
For the record, Hezbollah was designated as a foreign terrorist organization (FTO) by the U.S. State Department in October 1997, and is proscribed as a terrorist organization by Australia, Bahrain, Canada, Egypt, Israel, the Netherlands and (Hezbollah's military wing only) the United Kingdom. As for the rest of the European Union, it currently does not list Hezbollah as a terrorist organization though the European Parliament passed a non-binding resolution in 2005 recognizing "clear evidence" of "terrorist activities by Hezbollah" (in the wake of the murder of Lebanese leader Rafic Hariri) and urging the EU Council to brand Hezbollah as a terrorist organization. The Council has been reluctant to do this (says Wikipedia) because France and Spain fear such a move will further damage (wait for it...) the prospects for Middle East peace talks.

Assuming he has access to European cable TV, Hassan Nasrallah who heads Hezbollah from a pit somewhere in Lebanon must be thoroughly enjoying himself.

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