What their view on Hezbollah tells us about Europe's counter-terrorism strategy
The Hezbullah terrorists' customary form of salute will be
familiar to some Europeans, even if its lesson has been forgotten.
Watching the self-damaging way politicians and law enforcement officials view terrorism is, for the most part, an immensely frustrating thing.
Hezbollah, as we have noted here numerous times, is banned as a terrorist organization in major countries of the world but not in Europe. See for instance "26-Jan-13: Assessing the threat of Hezbullah's terrorism in North America, and doing something about it", "13-Jan-13: A French contribution to stopping the terrorists", 26-May-11: "Lebanon's terrorist forces have more missiles than most sovereign states"
Now today we the EU's principal counter-terrorism official telling us that Hezbollah might not be banned even if it is proven - as appears to be the case, that it stands behind the terrorist bombing of a busload of Israeli tourists in Bulgaria last summer.
EU official: Hezbollah unlikely to get on terrorism blacklist
EUobserver | 28.01.13...Gilles de Kerchove told EUobserver that Bulgaria's investigation into the incident is likely to be concluded next month... "First, we need to reach conclusions with strong evidence that it was the military wing of Hezbollah [which bombed Burgas]. That's the prerequisite, even in legal terms, but then, as always in the listing process, you need to ask yourself: 'Is this the right thing to do?' ...For Hezbollah, you might ask, given the situation in Lebanon, which is a highly fragile, highly fragmented country, is listing it going to help you achieve what you want? ...There is no automatic listing just because you have been behind a terrorist attack. It's not only the legal requirement that you have to take into consideration, it's also a political assessment of the context and the timing"... There is "no consensus" among EU states on whether listing Hezbollah would be helpful or not.
His politically-fine-tuned voice happens to have been a key one in European circles for some years:
Mr Gilles de KERCHOVE was appointed EU Counter-terrorism Coordinator on 19 September 2007. In this function, Mr Gilles de KERCHOVE will coordinate the work of the Council of the EU in the field of counter-terrorism, maintain an overview of all the instruments at the Union's disposal, closely monitor the implementation of the EU counter-terrorism strategy, fostering better communication between the EU and third Countries and ensure that the Union plays an active role in the fight against terrorism [From the website of the Council of the EU]
The article adds the "political" viewpoint as well. An unnamed EU diplomat is quoted saying:
"It's difficult to say what will happen until Bulgaria files its report. The way these things are phrased could be very important. There could be lots of ifs and maybes or it could contain very concrete elements... Hezbollah plays a very important political role in Lebanon."
So discount the lofty speeches about the urgency of addressing terrorist threats and the risks they pose to civilized society. For the people at Europe's steering wheels, it comes down to politics by other names.
Two weeks ago we posted here about a French official who reaches for the fig leaf of "the common position of the Council of the European Union" dating back to December 2001. That requires "specific measures to fight against terrorism", including adding new names to the list of proscribed terrorist organizations in the EU, to be based on "a consensus among Member States. This consensus is not currently met”, said the official, not exactly falling on his sword in despair.
It's not as if people don't understand the scale of the threat from Hizbollah. The then-outgoing US Defense Secretary Robert Gates said two years ago that Hezbollah was armed at that time "with more missiles and rockets than most states, possibly armed with chemical or biological warheads". And as we have learned here the hard way [see "30-Jul-06: Neighbourhood Barbarians"], those missiles and rockets are rarely aimed at military targets.