Hezbollah blacklisting debate rages on
The debate over the European Union’s decision to blacklist Hezbollah’s “military wing” intensified over the weekend, as March 14 officials warned of the damage to Lebanon’s interests and Hezbollah stood defiant against what one party official called “an insult to the resistance and its people.” Former premier Fouad Siniora weighed in on the debate Saturday, saying the decision endangers Lebanon.
“Although the [EU officials] are saying that their decision is only a political message [to Hezbollah] we should be careful because [the decision] poses high risks to Lebanon,” Siniora said during a visit to Hammoud Hospital in the southern city of Sidon.
Siniora, who heads the Future parliamentary bloc, urged Hezbollah to end its interference in other countries’ affairs because it was such involvement that led to the EU decision.
“We have concerns and we regret the reasons that led the European Union to take the decision of listing Hezbollah’s so-called military wing on its terror list, especially given that we in Lebanon have solid ties of friendship with the 28 European countries,” he said.
“No one in the country would have wanted that to happen but it was clear that what led to such a decision was due to the expansion of Hezbollah’s so-called military wing outside Lebanon and its interference in the affairs of other countries,” the Sidon MP said.
“This is why [Hezbollah] should end such involvement, which is harmful to Lebanon’s interests,” he said.
The EU’s 28-member states voted unanimously earlier this week to list the military wing of Hezbollah as a terrorist group. The decision was linked to Hezbollah’s alleged involvement in the deadly 2012 attack in Bulgaria that killed five Israeli tourists. Hezbollah denies involvement in the bombing.
Siniora warned that the group could be linked to incidents in other parts of the world.
“We heard that further information will be revealed to the international public opinion. It seems that other things have also happened in other countries,” he said.
Hezbollah has described the EU decision as “unjust,” accusing the European organization of giving Israel a pretext to launch aggression against Lebanon.
The head of Hezbollah’s parliamentary bloc said over the weekend the decision was aimed at intimidation.
“The decision of the European Union is a terrorist message and not a political one, they want to terrorize our people and instill fear in their hearts,” Mohammad Raad said during an Iftar in the Nabatieh town of Jbaa.
In his most recent televised speech, Hezbollah Secretary-General Hasan Nasrallah dismissed the importance of the decision and said it came after pressures from Israel and the United States.
Echoing Raad’s comments, Hezbollah MP Nawwaf Musawi said the European Union decision was an “attack against the resistance, the people and the homeland.”
“The decision reflects a colonial policy [by the EU] toward Lebanon and it comes in response to the Israeli-American dictates to the EU,” he said.
Hezbollah MP Ali Fayyad said the decision was a result of American and Israeli pressure on the EU, and said it would not change Hezbollah’s political positions.
“There is no benefit to the EU from this decision and it contradicts its interests,” he said at an iftar event over the weekend.
“It will not lead to changes in Hezbollah’s positions or convictions with respect to resisting the Israeli occupation or the Syrian crisis.”
Kataeb leader Amin Gemayel Saturday urged Hezbollah to reassess its political stance in Lebanon in light of the EU’s decision, a move which he described as having minimal effect on the country.
“We should learn our lesson from what happened, perhaps it could be an occasion for Hezbollah to re-evaluate its political stances in Lebanon,” the former president told Voice of Lebanon Radio Station.
“[Hezbollah should] take this issue as a motivation to return to the Lebanese legitimacy and national unity,” he added.
Gemayel said the European decision “was ambiguous” and could not be translated on the ground given that Hezbollah was a single body.
The former president also downplayed the immediate consequences of the decision.
“On the one hand, it represents so much while on the other, its effect is minimal,” he said.
“The decision to punish Hezbollah was taken and if we want to translate this decision on the ground, then we would see that the decision punishes ghosts and that the side carrying out Hezbollah’s operations is hidden,” Gemayel added.
Caretaker Interior Minister Marwan Charbel warned of the possibility of unrest as a result of the decision.
“Hezbollah is a party of resistance and it is not appropriate to talk about the existence of a military wing,” said Charbel in an interview with VDL, and expressed his surprise at the decision.
“European countries have always been supporters of stability in Lebanon,” he added.
“What has changed to lead to this decision being taken?”