America and Europe: a Case of Impaired Judgment?

by Anat Berko

EU Blacklists Hezbollah: Not Really

by Soeren Kern:

EU governments agreed only to blacklist the “military” wing of Hezbollah, thus maintaining the politically expedient fiction that a clear distinction can be drawn between Hezbollah terrorists and those members of the group’s “political” wing. European officials are afraid of Hezbollah reprisals against European interests at home and abroad. They are especially worried that if they antagonize Hezbollah, the group may activate sleeper cells and carry out attacks in European cities.

After years of equivocating, a reluctant European Union agreed on July 22 to place part of Hezbollah on itsterrorism blacklist, ostensibly to cut off the Shiite militant group’s sources of funding inside Europe.

But the unanimous decision by the 28-member bloc is likely to have only a limited impact on the Lebanon-based, Iranian-financed Hezbollah.

In a classic European fudge, EU governments agreed only to blacklist the “military” wing of Hezbollah, thus maintaining the politically expedient fiction that a clear distinction can be drawn between Hezbollah terrorists and those members of the group’s “political” wing.

 

A Hezbollah poster.

Blacklisting all of Hezbollah would have deprived the “Party of Allah” of potentially significant sources of fundraising by enabling the freezing of all of its bank accounts and assets in Europe. But by prevaricating on the true nature of Hezbollah, the EU has effectively limited the ability of law enforcement agencies to crack down on the group’s shadowy fundraising activities in Europe.

Instead, the onus will be on European counter-terrorism police to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that Hezbollah monies — which are often raised by entities masquerading as charities — are being expressly destined for terrorist activities rather than for “political” purposes.

Because of this legal uncertainty, it remains unclear if the EU will actually target any of Hezbollah’s assets or individuals in Europe.

The decision to list only a part of Hezbollah as a terrorist group comes more than five months after the Bulgarian government said it was clear that Hezbollah was behind a 2012 bus bombing in the Bulgarian city of Burgas that killed five Israelis and their driver.

In addition, a court in Cyprus recently sentenced Hezbollah operative Hossam Taleb Yaakoub to four years in prison for plotting to kill Israelis in the EU member state.

But the EU’s decision to blacklist Hezbollah was not primarily in response to the group’s terrorist activities in Europe. Instead, the EU has repeatedly cited its “concerns” over Hezbollah’s growing involvement in the war in Syria.

European officials have long rationalized their lack of resolve against Hezbollah by claiming that the organization has both a military wing and a political wing, and that cracking down on the former would cripple the latter. This, they say, would lead to the destabilization of Lebanon and thus the broader Middle East.

Many analysts, however, say this rationalization is a smoke screen Europeans are hiding behind to conceal the real reason why they are reluctant to confront Hezbollah, namely, fear of reprisals.

Read more at Gatestone Institute

 

Iranian, Hezbollah Terror Cells Re-Activated

A member of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps stands next to a picture of the Ayatollah Khomeini, leader of the Iranian Islamic Revolution of 1979. (Photo: Reuters)

A member of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps stands next to a picture of the Ayatollah Khomeini, leader of the Iranian Islamic Revolution of 1979. (Photo: Reuters)

By Clare Lopez:

Days before Israel reportedly struck inside Syria to destroy a shipment of dangerous Fateh-110 missiles with long range, precision-targeting capabilities, Hezbollah’s Supreme Guide Hassan Nasrallah declared that Syria had “real friends” who were ready and able to defend the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad, under attack since early 2011 by a coalition of Sunni rebels.

In an April 30 address on the Hezbollah satellite TV network, Al-Manar, Nasrallah hinted at a possible Hezbollah role on the ground inside Syria and, as he has done before, directly threatened both “America and the Zionist regime [Israel].”

This is not the first time that Nasrallah and his Iranian terror proxy, Hezbollah, have lashed out against the United States and Israel on orders from the “Supreme Leader” of the Iranian regime. What some have termed the “Shadow War” between Jerusalem and Tehran burst into the open in early 2012, with a series of plots involving Hezbollah and Iranian operatives across the globe.

From AfricaCentral Asia, and the Far East to Eastern Europe, the Shi’ite terror network has been identified by authorities in assassination, bombing, and Israeli embassy and personnel attack attempts. Many, thankfully, were thwarted, but in July 2012, five Israeli tourists and a Bulgarian bus driver were killed in Burgas, Bulgaria by a Hezbollah suicide bomber.

Read more at The Clarion Project

Elaborate surveillance operation raises concerns about broader Hezbollah attacks

AFP/AFP/GETTY IMAGES -  A truck carries the bus damaged by the suicide bomb blast which targeted a group of Israeli tourists in Bourgas, Bulgaria, on July 19, 2012.

AFP/AFP/GETTY IMAGES – A truck carries the bus damaged by the suicide bomb blast which targeted a group of Israeli tourists in Bourgas, Bulgaria, on July 19, 2012.

By :

The Israeli tourists on Arkia Airlines Flight 161 from Tel Aviv could not have known it, but their arrival in Cyprus July 6 was watched closely. A pair of trained eyes counted each passenger as the group exited the plane and boarded a shuttle, headed for resorts that had also been carefully studied and mapped.

The bearded foreigner who silently tracked the Israelis had done his work well. He knew where the visitors would sleep, shop and eat. He knew how many security guards patrolled their hotel parking lots and how long it would take police to arrive from the station down the street.

But the watcher was being watched. When Cypriot police picked him up, the Hezbollah operative quickly acknowledged what he was doing, although he claimed not to know why.

“I was just collecting information about the Jews,” he told police, according to a sworn deposition. “This is what my organization is doing, everywhere in the world.”

The arrest of Hossam Yaakoub, a Lebanese-born Swedish citizen, on July 7 was all but forgotten 11 days later when a bus containing another group of vacationing Israelis was blown up in the Bulgarianresort city of Burgas . The attack, which killed five Israelis and a Bulgarian bus driver, was quickly blamed on Hezbollah.

Now, seven months after that attack, new details emerging in Yaakoub’s case are providing chilling insights into what investigators describe as a far broader effort by the Lebanon-based militant group to lay the groundwork for killing Israeli citizens and perhaps others in multiple countries.

Some details have come from Yaakoub himself, who made his first public appearance last week during his trial in Cyprus. But a much fuller account comes from legal documents summarizing the Swedish man’s statements to police during weeks of questioning last summer and obtained by The Washington Post.

The evidence echoes discoveries by investigators in Bulgaria and prosecutors in Thailand, India, Azerbaijan, Kenya and other countries hit by a wave of attempted assassinations and bombings linked to Hezbollah or its chief sponsor, Iran. U.S. officials characterize the plots as part of a shadow war directed by Iran in part to retaliate for Western efforts to derail Iran’s nuclear program. Evidence uncovered by investigators portrays a professional, well-funded effort by Hezbollah to recruit, train and position European-based operatives for what U.S. analysts describe as preparations for future terrorist operations.

‘Calculated tradecraft’

While most of the attacks were thwarted or failed, the accumulated intelligence shows that Hezbollah is learning from its mistakes, employing the tactics of professional intelligence operatives to cover its tracks and expanding its threat, according to current and former U.S. officials, most of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the ongoing nature of the inquiries.

“In the beginning, they clearly emphasized speed over tradecraft,” said Matthew Levitt, a former counterterrorism official with the FBI and Treasury Department and author of the forthcoming book “Hezbollah: The Global Footprint of Lebanon’s Party of God.” Ananalysis of the more recent plots shows a shift in tactics, said Levitt, who said the Cyprus case in particular “underscores a very patient, careful and calculated tradecraft.”

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Europe’s Hezbollah Dilemma

hezby MARK  SILVERBERG:

The long-awaited results of the Bulgarian investigation into the Burgas  terrorist bombing last July 18th  has placed enormous pressure  on the European  Union to proscribe Hezbollah as a terrorist organization – a classification  repeatedly called for by the US, Canada and Israel, but so far rejected by EU member states except the  Netherlands.

Hezbollah’s involvement in the Burgas tragedy should make European leaders  rethink the standard excuses they have made to rationalize their lack of action  against Hezbollah. One often-quoted EU excuse maintains that since Hezbollah in  Lebanon has both a military aspect and a political/social aspect, clamping down  on the former would cripple the latter and destabilize the Hezbollah-dominated  government of the country.

While this hair splitting gives Hezbollah the wiggle room it needs to carry  on its nefarious activities in Europe, the argument has no validity given that the EU’s terror list already includes Hamas, which won the  Palestinian legislative elections in 2006, as well as the Communist Party of the  Philippines, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and other radical organizations  that are involved in their countries’ political systems. And given that the EU  has already sanctioned individuals and entities “responsible for the violent  repression against the civilian population in Syria”, there is no logical reason  to exclude Hezbollah as it clearly falls into this category given its continuing  support of the Assad regime.

This argument is especially vacuous given that Hezbollah’s second-in-command  Naim Qassem has already rejected the British separation of his organization into  political and military wings. Qassem told the Los Angeles Times in  2009: “The same leadership that directs the parliamentary and government work  (in Lebanon) also leads jihad actions in the struggle against  Israel.”

Stripping away all this double-speak, EU member states, most notably France  and Germany, fear that proscribing Hezbollah as a terrorist organization could  potentially lead to the activation of Hezbollah terror cells across the  continent. According to Matthew Levitt, the Director of the Washington Institute  for Near East Policy’s counterterrorism and intelligence program, the Europeans  are afraid to stir up a hornet’s nest. “Hezbollah” he writes, “is not very  active in Europe and the Europeans feel that if you poke Hezbollah or Iran in  the eye, they will do the same to you. If you leave them alone, then maybe they  will leave you alone.”

France is particularly apprehensive given the exposure of its UNIFIL forces  in Lebanon to Hezbollah fire, and it is even more concerned that designating  Hezbollah as a terrorist organization would, once again, bring  Hezbollah/Iranian-directed terrorism back to its streets.

Read more at Family Security Matters

Mark Silverberg is an attorney with a  Masters Degree in Political Science and International Relations from the  University of Manitoba, Canada. A former member of the Canadian Justice  Department and a past Director of the Canadian Jewish Congress (Western Office)  based in Vancouver, he served as a Consultant to the Secretary General of the  Jewish Agency in Jerusalem during the first Palestinian intifada. He is a member  of Hadassah’s National Academic Advisory Board, a foreign policy analyst with  the Ariel Center for Policy Research (Israel) and the International Analyst  Network (U.S.), and has been interviewed on Israel National Radio as an  authority on American foreign policy in the Middle East. His editorials and  articles on Middle East affairs have appeared in the NATIV Journal of the Ariel  Center for Policy Research (Israel), Israel Insider, the Conservative Voice,  Family Security Matters, Israel Unity Coalition, The Intelligence Summit,  Midstream and Outpost magazines and Arutz Sheva (Israel National News). He has  lectured extensively on subjects of counterterrorism, jihadism, homeland  security issues and intelligence matters and is a Featured Writer with the New  Media Journal (Chicago). He is the author of “The Quartermasters of Terror:  Saudi Arabia and the Global Islamic Jihad (Wyndham Hall Press, 2005). His  articles and book have been archived under http://www.marksilverberg.com/.

The Burgas Attack: Iran’s Terror War Against Israel

By P. David Hornik

Wednesday’s suicide bombing of an Israeli tour bus in Burgas, Bulgaria killed five Israelis and a Bulgarian tour guide, as well as the bomber himself. Over thirty Israelis were also injured, three of them seriously.

The bomber had a fake driver’s license of the state of Michigan. On Thursday evening Bulgarian media named him as Mehdi Ghezali, a Swedish citizen who was in the Guantanamo detainment camp from 2002 to 2004 and whose freedom was basically secured by the Swedish authorities. Sweden, however, denied the report’s accuracy.

Video footage from the day of the bombing shows that the perpetrator, with long hair, shorts, sneakers, a baseball cap, and a backpack, clearly intended to look like something other than a suicide bomber.

On the other hand, the Israeli daily Haaretz reports that “airport security cameras captured the suspect roaming the airport for at least one hour.” If so, it’s hardly to airport security’s credit that their suspicions weren’t even aroused enough to question him—if they were watching at all.

But Iran—to which Israel’s prime minister, defense minister, and foreign minister publicly assigned ultimate responsibility for the attack—has been trying for months to mass-murder Israelis in less-efficient countries like Thailand, India, Georgia, Kenya, and others. This time the attempt “succeeded”: “Body parts were strewn across the ground, mangled metal hung from the bus’s ripped roof and black smoke billowed over the airport.”

Israel prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu said: “All signs point to Iran…. This is [part of] a global Iranian terror onslaught and Israel will react firmly to it.” In a press conference Thursday evening he added “that Israel and world security agencies have caught Hizbullah and Iranian operatives in [numerous] countries, after attacks, planning terror attacks and laying the infrastructure to wage their war of terror.”

Defense Minister Ehud Barak stated: “The immediate executors [of Wednesday’s attack] are Hizbullah operatives, who of course have constant Iranian sponsorship.” Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman also said he had conclusive information implicating Hizbullah and Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps.

Speculations have attributed the attack to Hizbullah’s desire to avenge the 2008 assassination in Damascus of its terror mastermind Imad Mughniyeh, for which it blames Israel, and Iran’s desire to avenge the recent assassinations of nuclear scientists, for which it blames Israel as well. But these are, at most, proximate causes; for both these bodies the destruction of Israel is a central goal, and the murder of its citizens has consistently been a means toward it.

Read more at Front Page

Related article:

U.S. links Iran to nine 2012 plots against Israeli targets around the world: report (nationalpost.com)