Sunday, July 03, 2005

Start with Hizbullah

The Jerusalem Post:
On Friday, the United Kingdom took over the presidency of the European Union. In addition to what the Live 8 concerts have made a splashy issue – aid to Africa – the UK is expected to push anti-terror issues high on its agenda. Keeping Iran from developing a nuclear weapon is certainly a priority, as is Israeli-Palestinian peace.

On the latter, Prime Minister Tony Blair has hinted he is working on a new initiative for the G8 leaders to approve at their summit in Gleneagles this week. READ MORE

Yet there is a piece of the puzzle that is glaringly missing. Hizbullah is still not on the EU's list of terrorist organizations and, after the recent Lebanese elections, farther than ever from being added. This is no small oversight, in that it flies in the face of British foreign policy and a number of components of its European presidency agenda.

Britain itself has said it better than we can. "The fact that a terror organization stands in elections doesn't mean it ceases to be a terror organization," said UK Foreign Minister Jack Straw on June 8 in Ramallah.

"Hamas will stay on the [British] list of terror groups until it has renounced terrorist violence in action as well as in words."

Why would Lebanese elections legitimate Hizbullah more than Palestinian elections legitimate Hamas? They don't.

If anything, the case against Hizbullah is even stronger, and again it is a British case. When a parliamentary committee asked Blair in February whether he agreed with the US that Iran was the world's top state-sponsor of terror he said, "It certainly does sponsor terrorism, there's no doubt about that at all... if we can make progress in the Middle East, Iran [must realize] it's got an obligation to help that, not hinder it." It makes no sense to correctly observe that Iran is trying to kill the peace process through terrorism – while whitewashing Hizbullah, Iran's long-established tool for doing so.

Indeed, while there are perhaps useful initiatives that the UK could push to advance peace, such as pressing Arab states to normalize relations with Israel, it is hard to see what could be more basic than isolating the most vociferous enemies of peace.
By refusing to even label Hizbullah as a terrorist organization, the European Union seems to be lagging behind the UN Security Council, which last week condemned Hizbullah's "attack against Israel" and reiterated its demands that that organization be disarmed, and that Lebanon exercise its sovereignty over the border with Israel.

Though the UN resolution did not unequivocally assign blame for the attacks on Har Dov, including the mortar fire that killed an Israeli soldier, French UN Ambassador Jean-Marc de La Sabliere did: "It is clear that the incident was started by Hizbullah." The UN envoy to southern Lebanon, Geir Pedersen, also said pointedly that Lebanon must "put an end to all attacks emanating from its territory."

The fact that Hizbullah, along with its Shi'ite allies Amal, won 35 out of 128 seats in the Lebanese parliament, far from granting the group immunity, is a further argument for disarming it. Hizbullah uses conflict with Israel to justify its existence. A heavily-armed political party is not only a threat to Lebanon's fragile new independence from Syrian occupation and steps toward democracy, but an invitation to instability and conflict across the UN-drawn international border.

While the threat from Hizbullah might be seen as small potatoes compared to the nuclear challenge from its Iranian sponsors, the two are clearly connected. Why should Iran take Europe's claim that it will block an Iranian bomb seriously when the EU seems too timid even to confront the mullah's terrorist proxy?

Every year since 9/11, G8 summits have made resounding statements about the need to fight global terrorism, and even unveiled concrete initiatives for international cooperation to this end. The real test, however, is whether the West can stand together and use its collective diplomatic and economic power (let alone military strength) to defend itself from rogue states and their proxies.

If even Tony Blair's UK will not employ its presidency to lead the way to the minimal and obvious step of branding Hizbullah a terrorist organization, it is hard to imagine anyone, certainly not the rogue states themselves, taking the West's rhetoric about fighting terrorism seriously.