Monday

26th Jul 2021

Opinion

Time for EU to get real on Hezbollah

  • Poster of Hezbollah secretary general Hassan Nasrallah in Lebanon (Photo: aldask)

The UN Security Council's renewal of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (Unifil) mandate on August 28 has presented an urgent opportunity to re-examine Europe's legacy in the region and, more importantly, the steps that are needed today to bring real stability to Lebanon.

Founded in 1978 to oversee Israel's withdrawal from Lebanon, over 40 years later Unifil remains on the ground, fulfilling the same role, as a peacekeeper and monitoring hostilities.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

However, neither the EU's foreign policy, nor the Unifil mandate, are in line with the current state of affairs, as Hezbollah, the Iran-backed terrorist group which presents itself as a political party, continues to exploit Lebanon for its own nefarious purposes and insert itself into the political sphere.

According to Western intelligence agencies, Iran funds Hezbollah to the tune of $200m to $300m [€168-€252] per year in cash outlays alone, and provides an arsenal of weapons and logistical services valued at more than $700m.

The terrorist organisation has ravaged the region politically, economically, and violently for decades.

The political impact of the Shiite militia is devastating to Lebanon.

Since 1992, Hezbollah has woven itself into the political fabric of the country and held an inflated influence in the elected government.

Government mismanagement and years of slow growth have saddled Lebanon with one of the world's highest public debt burdens, an economic situation that is exacerbated by the recent explosion in Beirut.

The importance of strengthening Unifil must not be underestimated to truly tackle the destruction and instability caused by the militia.

Hezbollah has flagrantly violated the UN mandate, as it continues arms smuggling via Syria with Iran and digging tunnels along the Israeli border.

A recent report from the UN Security Council itself has found that Unifil was consistently not granted access to investigate sites of interest to its operations, has been unable to crack down on arms smuggling and has faced backlash from local Hezbollah sympathisers.

EU member states like Ireland, Germany, and Poland which contribute soldiers to Unifil, along with UN Security Council members, need to reevaluate the current role the force plays in the region.

By strengthening the Unifil mandate, in particular by ensuring that the mission can physically or electronically inspect and effectively monitor sites where potential violations of the Security Council resolution 1706 (2006) are suspected, Unifil can be an effective instrument helping to push back the influence of Hezbollah in Lebanon.

It is also vital for individual EU states to take their own concrete action against the Hezbollah terrorists.

While some European nations, most recently Germany, have recognised the full extent of its reign of terror and banned Hezbollah in its entirety, the official EU position still clings to the erroneous assumption that a true distinction between the political and military wings of the group can be made.

Artificial distinction

Such a distinction is rejected even by Hezbollah's own leadership.

Hezbollah does not distinguish between wings and each part of the organisation, the social, political and military structures are integral parts of the terror group and all enable its functioning.

Introducing artificial distinctions is not an effective approach.

Should Hezbollah be allowed to continue to grow, it is feared Lebanon could eventually become something long coveted by Iran - a threat to Western values and a forward base for Iran on the Mediterranean.

It is pivotal that the EU uses its voice to support Lebanon and work against the devastation brought by Hezbollah by declaring the organisation in all its entities a terrorist group, banning its presence on European soil outright.

Europe must coordinate its security approach, to follow the progressive lead of Germany, and to finally designate Hezbollah a terrorist organisation.

Evidentially, neither the EU's' approach to Hezbollah nor the current Unifil mandate are fit for purpose.

This combination of imperfect foreign policy has allowed the terrorist militia to become an almost untouchable force in Lebanon

It is time for European countries to recognise Hezbollah for the terror group it truly is and for the UN Security Council to strengthen the mandate of Unifil to allow the soldiers to effectively monitor suspect sites.

Only then can Europe continue its legacy of bringing hope and stability to the next generation of Lebanese people.

Author bio

Radek Sikorski is a Polish MEP and former foreign affairs minister of Poland. Lucinda Creighton is a former Irish foreign minister. Hans-Jakob Schindler is director of the Counter Extremism Project, an international non-profit organisation, and a former UN coordinator on monitoring extremist Islamist groups Isil (Da’esh) and al-Qaeda and the Taliban militia in Afghanistan.

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

Feature

Lebanon crisis overshadows EU aid for Syrian refugees

Lebanon hosts over one million Syrian refugees, and has received some €1bn in EU funds. Caught in a geo-political tug of war between Saudi Arabia and Iran, Lebanon's domestic politics have cast a longer shadow over its Syrian 'guests'.

Hungary: why we can't support a global minimum tax

This month the OECD Inclusive Framework agreed on the main building blocks of new tax legislation for a global minimum tax and for the digital economy. However, Hungary did not join - this is why.

Why aren't EU's CSDP missions working?

The EU deploys thousands of advisers to its missions abroad. Without addressing reform as a profoundly political struggle, however, the EU will remain successful only in operational advisory and trainings.

News in Brief

  1. Funeral held for Roma man killed in Czech police custody
  2. UN: Afghan civilian casualties at record high
  3. Tunisia's prime minister sacked, parliament suspended
  4. Gaza hit by Israeli airstrikes
  5. Greece annuls humanitarian sea rescue award
  6. Thousands attend Budapest Pride
  7. Macron changes phone after Pegasus spyware revelations
  8. Italy to impose 'vaccinated-only' entry on indoor entertainment

Ukraine - Zelensky's authoritarian turn?

President Volodymyr Zelensky has begun his third year mired in mid-term unpopularity with a poll showing only 21.8 percent of Ukrainians would vote to re-elect him. More than half would prefer him not even to run for a second term.

Why the EU delay on supply chains? Corporate lobbying

EU legislation to clean up supply chains and corporate governance has been delayed after fierce industry lobbying. Voluntary commitments have repeatedly failed, now it is time for decisive regulatory action.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNineteen demands by Nordic young people to save biodiversity
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersSustainable public procurement is an effective way to achieve global goals
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council enters into formal relations with European Parliament
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen more active in violent extremist circles than first assumed
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersDigitalisation can help us pick up the green pace
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID19 is a wake-up call in the fight against antibiotic resistance

Latest News

  1. Germany mulls restrictions for unvaccinated as cases soar
  2. 'Prison island' birthplace of EU reborn as think-tank venue
  3. Will Erna Solberg be the Nordic Merkel – winning a third term?
  4. Hungary: why we can't support a global minimum tax
  5. Far left and right MEPs less critical of China and Russia
  6. Why is offshore wind the 'Cinderella' of EU climate policy?
  7. Open letter from 30 embassies ahead of Budapest Pride
  8. Orbán counters EU by calling referendum on anti-LGBTI law

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us