How a UK ban would impact Hezbollah

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Hezbollah’s terror activities on several continents stretch back decades. The group has also been implicated in drug and money-laundering networks.
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Hezbollah’s terror activities on several continents stretch back decades. The group has also been implicated in drug and money-laundering networks.
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Hezbollah’s terror activities on several continents stretch back decades. The group has also been implicated in drug and money-laundering networks.
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Hezbollah’s terror activities on several continents stretch back decades. The group has also been implicated in drug and money-laundering networks.
Updated 26 February 2019

How a UK ban would impact Hezbollah

  • Analysts say the move will restrict the Iran-backed group’s destabilizing activities in the region
  • It will dent its reputation and affect ministries in Lebanon

DUBAI:  A UK ban on Hezbollah, outlawing the entire Lebanon-based group as a terrorist organization, can’t come soon enough for regional political analysts.

“It is better late than never,” said Dr. Abdulkhaleq Abdulla, a former chairman of the Arab Council for the Social Sciences, who is based in the UAE. “It’s about time that a country like the UK recognized that Hezbollah is nothing but an extension of Iran, the number one country financing terrorism  in the region.

“This has taken a long time, but it is great that Britain is now leading Europe. Hopefully, other European countries will follow suit.”

The UK outlawed Hezbollah’s military wing in 2008, but the ban now will extend to its political arm. Authorities said they are no longer able to distinguish between the group’s military and political wings.

Under the changes, supporting Hezbollah will be an offense carrying a sentence of up to 10 years in prison.

The decision follows outrage over the display of the Hezbollah flag, which features a Kalashnikov assault rifle, at pro-Palestinian rallies in London.

“The UK had this problem in trying to distinguish between the military wing of Hezbollah and the political wing of Hezbollah,” Abdulla said. “But everybody has recognized that one feeds into the other, and the military wing is the other face of the political wing.”

Hezbollah’s military and political arms  were “two faces of the same coin.”

The group deserved its classification  as a terrorist organization, as many Arab and Gulf states had already recognized. “It is going to badly dent its reputation. It wanted to project itself as a national liberation movement, but now we have a major power saying it is nothing but a terrorist organization.”

Abdulla said the decision sent a signal to Iran as well since many countries were “getting ready” to face up to Tehran’s activities in the region. “Much of this activity is done through Hezbollah. Iran will be affected one way or the other.”

 The group is now a major political party in Lebanon, where it holds three Cabinet posts. 

“Hezbollah is continuing its attempts to destabilize the fragile situation in the Middle East,” UK Home Secretary Sajid Javid said. “We are no longer able to distinguish between their banned military wing and the political party. Because of this, I have taken the decision to proscribe the group in its entirety.”

According to Dr. Albadr Al-Shateri, politics professor at the National Defense College in Abu Dhabi, the classification of Hezbollah as a terrorist organization will squeeze the party financially and limit its sympathizers’ activities in the UK.

“The long-term challenge is how to decommission Hezbollah as a militia and turn (it into) a political party. That can only happen if Israel is persuaded to relinquish the Lebanese-occupied territories in exchange for the decommissioning of Hezbollah.”

Hezbollah was established in 1982 during the Lebanese civil war and has been a Shiite militant movement since.

 “This is inevitable in many ways for a country like Lebanon, it’s the elephant in the room,” said Alex Vatanka, senior fellow at the Middle East Institute in Washington.

“The British decision encourages (moves) to unify the Lebanese body of politics and to put the issue of Hezbollah to the test for the Lebanese people. No one knows if it will be possible — probably not — but there are two states within one and that is not always going to be beneficial to the Lebanese people because it creates contradictions and puts a group’s agenda above the agenda of Lebanon as a country.”

The decision from London would keep that argument alive and fuel debate, Vatanka said.

“I don’t expect Hassan Nasrallah (Hezbollah’s leader) will make something different tomorrow. It’s the rest of Lebanese politics we can expect to react to this ... because Hezbollah has formidable power in Lebanon.”

Whether the decision amounts to anything more than a symbolic gesture, Vatanka believes only time will tell. “There has been a trend of governments within governments or competing governments. Iran was the first example followed by Lebanon, but it’s a trend we might see elsewhere with militias in Syria and Iraq, and it’s not a good trend for representation in Middle Eastern countries.”

He said Middle Eastern societies should have the discussion in their own countries first, but suggested foreign powers such as the UK could shape the debate by taking a stance. “This position has much to do with the nature of Hezbollah’s activities as well,” he said. “It’s about the militant nature of Hezbollah.”

Dr Majid Rafizadeh, an Iranian-American political scientist, president of the International American Council and a board member of the Harvard International Review, said the decision was a significant blow to the Islamic Republic. “Hezbollah has been a fundamental pillar of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and its elite branch the Quds Force which operates in foreign nations,” he explained. “Hezbollah has been instrumental in expanding the IRGC's stranglehold in other countries beside Lebanon, including in Syria. This development also highlights the increasing gap between the EU and Iran.”

He said enlisting Hezbollah as a terrorist organization was long overdue. “Set up by the IRGC, since its inception, Hezbollah's modus operandi has been anchored in employing terror activities to advance the Iranian regime's interests,” he noted. “Other European countries ought to join the UK as well. More importantly, enlisting Hezbollah as a terrorist organization is not sufficient; as long as Iran, Hezbollah's paymaster, enjoys global legitimacy and trade with the EU, Tehran will continue to fund and arm Hezbollah. In order for the UK to succeed at countering Hezbollah's terror activities, the flow of funds to Iran should be cut off, and any financial dealings and military cooperation between Iran and Hezbollah must be monitored closely and sanctioned.”

The militant group has a long-standing association with crime and terror activities. In 1994, it carried out a suicide truck bombing of a Jewish community centre in Buenos Aires, killing 85 people and wounding 300. Eighteen years later, it struck again, blowing up a bus carrying Israeli tourists at the airport in Burgas, Bulgaria, killing seven and wounding 32.

In 2006, the group captured two Israeli soldiers, sparking a 34-day war in which 1,200 people were killed. In 2009, Hezbollah came under attack again from the international community with claims of worldwide terrorism and political assassinations in Lebanon. 

The group has also denied accusations concerning its activities in Syria in early 2011, claiming it had no “military role in Arab countries.”

In February 2016, the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) implicated Hezbollah in a drug- trafficking and money-laundering network that spanned four continents. According to a DEA report, the group had links with South American drug cartels in a cocaine-smuggling operation in Europe and the US.

The proceeds funded a money- laundering scheme known as the Black Market Peso Exchange and provided Hezbollah with “a revenue and weapons stream.”


Algerian football fans touch off national identity debate in France

Updated 3 min 39 sec ago

Algerian football fans touch off national identity debate in France

  • Algeria play Senegal in the final of the African Cup of Nations on Friday evening
  • Around 2,500 police officers will be mobilized around the Champs-Elysees and Arc de Triomphe
PARIS: Thousands of extra French police are set to be on duty later Friday in Paris and other major cities following clashes involving Algerian football fans that have touched off a debate about national identity.

Algeria play Senegal in the final of the African Cup of Nations on Friday evening with excitement high in France which is home to a huge Algerian-origin population due to the country’s colonial history.

Thousands of people partied in the streets when Algeria won its quarter-final on July 11 and then again for the semifinal on July 14, but the celebrations were later marred by pillaging and street clashes.

“I call on people celebrating, even if I understand their joy, to behave themselves,” Paris police chief Didier Lallement told a press conference on Wednesday.

Around 2,500 police officers will be mobilized around the Champs-Elysees and Arc de Triomphe where crowds set off fireworks and flew flags from car windows last Sunday, which was also France’s national Bastille Day.

Clashes with police in the early hours, following pillaging the week before, saw more than 200 people arrested, leading to condemnation from the police and government, as well as far-right politicians.

The fact that the semifinal coincided with Bastille Day, which celebrates the French republic and its armed forces, irked nationalist politicians in particular who worry about the effects of immigration.

“Like lots of French people, I was shocked to see French people take down the French flag and put up the Algerian one,” far-right politician Nicolas Dupont-Aignan said on Friday morning.

Dupont-Aignan said the French-born Algeria fans, many of whom have dual nationality, could “go back” to north Africa if their preference was for Algeria.

“I want to ask these young people, who are a minority I hope: France has welcomed you, fed you, educated you, looked after you, but if you prefer Algeria, if it’s better than France, go back to Algeria!"

Violence has flared in France in the past after major football games involving Algeria including during World Cup games in 2014, which led far-right leader Marine Le Pen to propose stripping rioters of their French nationality.

“Their victories are our nightmare,” a spokesperson for Le Pen’s National Rally party, Sebastien Chenu, said Monday. “Whenever there’s a match with Algeria... there are problems.”

A France-Algeria friendly in 2001 in Paris saw the French national anthem copiously booed in what was the first meeting on the pitch between the countries since Algeria’s independence in 1962 following 130 years of French rule.

The National Rally has called for Algeria fans to be barred from the Champs-Elysees on Friday, a demand dismissed as impractical and unfair by the Paris police force.

“For me, the people coming to the Champs-Elysees are joyous citizens,” police chief Lallement told the press conference.

Others have pointed out that the overwhelming majority of fans marked Algeria’s last two victories in the Africa Cup peacefully and that many Franco-Algerians feel free to celebrate the successes of both countries.

“We are saddened by the events of July 14,” Faiza Menai from Debout l’Algerie, a collective that unites members of the Algerian diaspora in France, told AFP on Thursday.

She recalled that France had seen six months of violent demonstrations during the so-called “yellow vest” protests against the government, which were supported by Le Pen and other far-right groups.

The football violence was caused by not only by Algerians, she said, and was the result of an angry minority living frustrated lives in low-income and neglected suburban areas that ring French cities.

“It’s a pity that there are people who show up just to cause trouble. As in the case of the yellow vests, you have these young guys who missed the point — they come in from the suburbs and take advantage of the situation to get their revenge,” she said.

Her group plans to send out volunteers in florescent orange vests to the Champs Elysees to “try to limit the damage by raising awareness among supporters and lending a hand to authorities.”

Azouz Begag, a novelist and former minister in France’s government in 2005-2007, called on fellow Franco-Algerians to “state again after the match against Senegal that they are in their home in France, that they pay taxes and are voters.

“The public spaces of the republic are theirs,” he wrote in Le Monde.