In addition to the European Union proscribing Hezbollah, NATO must also enforce a buffer zone between Lebanon and Israel, writes Wahied Wahdat-Hagh
While Iran makes efforts to prevent the overthrow of the Syrian regime and rearms Hezbollah, European politicians continue to underestimate the often interrelated problems of terrorism and dictatorships.
In what was the first prisoner exchange since the beginning of the insurgency, the Syrian government recently released 2130 prisoners. In return, Syrian rebels released 48 Iranians.
The Iranian government claims that the captured Iranians were pilgrims, but video recordings and documents published by the Syrian opposition shows that the Iranians belonged to the Revolutionary Guards. They were sent to Syria for counterinsurgency missions.
The exchange also shows just how great the Iranian influence in Syria really is, considering that President Bashar al-Assad said just last week that the Syrian government excludes any negotiations with the armed opposition.
The close alliance seems in many ways contradictory because Assad has consistently opposed the Islamists in his country, such as in 1982 when an uprising by the Muslim Brotherhood was brutally smashed by his father.
But while the support of Hezbollah in Lebanon is part of a strategy of exporting the Islamic revolution, Iran supports Assad for very different reasons – both tactical and political. Syria belongs to the anti-Israeli, anti-American “axis of resistance”. Syria is also the key transit country for supporting Hezbollah with military equipment.
The aforementioned espionage action has split Lebanon. Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri criticised Hezbollah, as it has threatened the security of Lebanon. Prime Minister Najib Mikati accused Nasrallah of violating Resolution 1701 of the UN Security Council, pursuing armed conflict with Israel, and subsequently called for governmental control of the Hezbollah militia.
Even the March 14 alliance, the “Rafiq Hariri Martyr List”, recalling the assassination of former Prime Minister in 2005, sharply condemned the deployment of drones.
Hezbollah enjoys recognition as a leading figure of “the resistance” from some radical Muslims. Its refusal to disarm is not really questioned. The “Party of God” will never voluntarily lay down its arms, a statement which has been emphasised repeatedly by its leaders.
It may be a warning for the future that on October 19th 2012, a bomb exploded in Beirut. Eight people were killed and over 80 were injured. The target was Wessam al-Hassan, the intelligence chief of the Sunni Police. He stood near to Saad Hariri and to the March 14 alliance.
The Iranian and Syrian regime, together with Hezbollah, condemned the attack. Like previous attacks, one can try to guess who could be the perpetrators by analysing the goals and of course, who could benefit from it. But a legal clarification is hardly possible.
Nasrallah does not think of subordinating himself under the head of the Lebanese army or indeed under the president. Any effort to cut back the power of the “Party of God” has been met with violent intimidations.
Before the elections in June this year, Hezbollah wants to make it clear how dangerous any attack on its position of power would be. The 2004 UN Security Coucil Resolution 1559 called for the disbanding and disarmament of all militias in Lebanon. From the beginning it was clear that Hezbollah would refuse to disarm, but neither the European Union nor the United States stressed to enforce the resolution. This is why the financially strong and well-armed Hezbollah doesn’t need to fear its political opponents.
Bizzarely, the EU is not even willing to place Hezbollah on the terrorist list. There are security reasons: this organisation is capable of carrying out attacks in Europe, for example the murder of four Iranians in 1992 in Berlin. Three of them were Kurdish dissidents.
There are also economic interests at play. The EU joined the sanctions policy against Iran quite reluctantly, and furthermore, nobody seems keen to aggravate the totalitarian Iranian regime too much.
Although the “Islamic Republic of Iran,” and its proxy organisations are the greatest obstacle to the democratisation of the Middle East and indeed for the peace in the region, until very recently, there has been little effort to significantly weaken them.
The UN Security Council has prohibited, in its resolution 1747, Iranian arms exports to Lebanon. But Nasrallah proclaimed proudly that the drone sent to Israel was of Iranian origin. It is also known that almost all the weapons are transported through Syria into Lebanon. But there were also no serious efforts to end the shipments before the uprising in Syria, when Assad was looking for better relations with the West.
Instead, the Europeans flirted with the idea of considering Hezbollah as a part of the Lebanese army.
The founder of the Hezbollah movement is Ali Akbar Mohtashemipur, an Iranian clergyman who said publicly in 2006 that the “party of God” was created, financed, and equipped by his (Iranian) government. This support, he argued, should be a tool to spread the “Islamic Revolution”, a goal which is enshrined in the Constitution of Iran.
Mohatashemipur boasted that the Palestinians had only about 30,000 fighters in 1982, and had not been in a position to take action against Israel. Now, he argues, Hezbollah successfully fights against Israel, with Iranian missiles.
Primarily of course, the rockets of Hezbollah are dangerous for Israel. Some of them have a range of 250 kilometers. They can reach all Israeli territory, except the very southern Negev desert.
Iran has delivered over 100,000 of these rockets to Hezbollah. There is a militant armed organisation on the border of Israel, founded by Iran. Hezbollah doesn’t hide its goal to destroy Israel. It is also a fact that the danger of war increases if the Iranian regime continues down the path towards a nuclear bomb. All this seems to be a part of the normality in the Middle East and sadly, in Europe too.
But wars can be prevented only in peacetime.
The quintessence is clear: First, Europe must ban Lebanese Hezbollah as a terrorist organisation.
Secondly, Europe has to play an active role in NATO to organise an international military unit which controls a buffer zone in Lebanon along the borders of Israel, to secure the homeland of the Jews.
Europe must recognise that the mission of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) is not enough to prevent another war. A new international military unit should have the responsibility to disarm Hezbollah and to guarantee the security of Israel and prevent war.
This is of direct interest of Europe, since a new war mixed with terrorism will for sure affect European and its interests.
And European intellectuals and politicians such as Jacob Augstein, who was listed on the Simon Wiesenthal’s list of the biggest anti-Semites of 2012, have to recognise, that neither Israel nor USA are the problems of the 21st century. It is Islamic terrorism and dictatorship that continue to be the causes of instability and aggression.
Wahied Wahdat-Hagh is a Senior Fellow at the European Foundation for Democracy (EFD) in Brussels