Britain Has Discarded the Delusion That Hizballah Has Two Wings, but Europe Clings to It

March 12 2019

In a recent reversal, the United Kingdom outlawed Hizballah’s “political wing” from operating within its borders, after over a decade of considering only its “military wing” a terrorist organization. Yet, write Mark Dubowitz and Benjamin Weinthal, other European countries refuse to follow suit:

On Friday, the German government rebuffed requests from the U.S., Israel, and a number of Arab countries to outlaw all of Hizballah. Europe’s . . . approach to Hizballah puts it at odds with reality—not to mention Hizballah leaders’ own view of their group. . . . The partial ban prompted the Hizballah spokesman Ibrahim Mousawi to repeat what other top officials of the group have stressed over the years: “Hizballah is a single, large organization. We have no wings that are separate from one another.” . . .

But the EU, [along with Germany, has] continued to ignore Hizballah’s self-described identity as a unitary organization. The rationale: Europe, in particular France and Germany, desired to continue a “critical dialogue.”. . .

As the main economic engine of Europe, Germany could influence a change in EU policy toward Hizballah. [Moreover], Germany has long been a hotbed of Hizballah activity. The organization’s representatives raise funds, recruit members and spread a lethal anti-Semitic and jihadist ideology. . . .

The real reason Germany (and the EU) hesitate to ban the whole of Hizballah has to do with appeasing Iran, Hizballah’s sponsor. Berlin is well aware that Hizballah is tied at the navel to Tehran. . . . That treasured friendship was on display last month when German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier sent a warm congratulatory telegram to Tehran to honor the 40th anniversary of the founding of the Islamic Republic.

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More about: European Union, Germany, Hizballah, Iran, Politics & Current Affairs, United Kingdom

War with Iran Isn’t on the Horizon. So Why All the Arguments against It?

As the U.S. has responded to Iranian provocations in the Persian Gulf, various observers in the press have argued that National Security Advisor John Bolton somehow seeks to drag President Trump into a war with Iran against his will. Matthew Continetti points out the absurdities of this argument, and its origins:

Never mind that President Trump, Vice-President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan, and Bolton have not said a single word about a preemptive strike, much less a full-scale war, against Iran. Never mind that the president’s reluctance for overseas intervention is well known. The “anti-war” cries are not about context, and they are certainly not about deterring Iran. Their goal is saving President Obama’s nuclear deal by manipulating Trump into firing Bolton and extending a lifeline to the regime.

It’s a storyline that originated in Iran. Toward the end of April, Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif showed up in New York and gave an interview to Reuters where he said, “I don’t think [Trump] wants war,” but “that doesn’t exclude him basically being lured into one” by Bolton. . . . And now this regime talking point is everywhere. “It’s John Bolton’s world. Trump is just living in it,” write two former Obama officials in the Los Angeles Times. “John Bolton is Donald Trump’s war whisperer,” writes Peter Bergen on CNN.com. . . .

Recall Obama’s deputy national security advisor Ben Rhodes’s admission to the New York Times Magazine in 2016 [that] “We created an echo chamber” to attack the Iran deal’s opponents through leaks and tips to the D.C. press. . . . Members of the echo chamber aren’t for attacking Iran, but they are all for slandering its American opponents. The latest target is Bolton. . . .

The Iranians are in a box. U.S. sanctions are crushing the economy, but if they leave the agreement with Europe they will be back to square one. To escape the box you try to punch your way out. That’s why Iran has assumed a threatening posture: provoking an American attack could bolster waning domestic support for the regime and divide the Western alliance.

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More about: Barack Obama, Iran, Javad Zarif, John Bolton, U.S. Foreign policy