Thursday, December 20, 2012

Hagel’s Hezbollah Problem

Hagel’s Hezbollah Problem

Alana Goodman

As others have made clear, Chuck Hagel’s problems extend beyond his controversial comments about the “Jewish lobby.” Several of his stated positions–and not just his opposition to Iran sanctions–could have practical consequences for U.S. interests. A prime example is the European Union’s indication that it may finally designate Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, depending on the outcome of the Burgas bus bombing investigation. The U.S. has lobbied the reluctant EU on this for years, since the move would cut off much of the terror group’s funding:

European diplomats from Spain and France have told the Post that blacklisting Hezbollah is contingent on the outcome of the Bulgarian investigation into a July bombing in Burgas which killed five Israelis and their Bulgarian bus driver. American and Israeli intelligence officials believe a joint Hezbollah-Iran operation executed the suicide bombing. Europe has held the line on its ban of Hamas in 2003. Hezbollah’s terrorism is equally deadly and there are no shortage of compelling reasons to evict Hezbollah from European soil.

It’s a promising sign from the EU, but the U.S. will still need to continue the pressure. While serving as ranking member on the Senate Armed Services Committee, Hagel drew notice in 2006 for refusing to sign onto a letter calling on the EU to designate Hezbollah–a letter that was signed by 88 Senators. The decision was striking, considering his prominent role in the committee. It also gave cover to an Iranian-allied terrorist organization, in direct contradiction with U.S. interests. What signal would his potential appointment send to the EU about the U.S.’s seriousness on cracking down on Hezbollah?