European Union governments agreed Monday to put the armed wing of Hezbollah on the EU terrorism blacklist in a reversal of past policy fuelled by concerns over the Lebanese militant movement's activities in Europe.
Britain and the Netherlands have pressed EU peers since May to put the Shi'ite Muslim group's military wing on the bloc's terrorism list, citing evidence it was behind a bus bombing in Bulgaria last year which killed five Israelis and their driver.
Until now, the EU had resisted pressure from Washington and Israel to blacklist Hezbollah, arguing such a move could fuel instability in Lebanon, where the group is part of the government, and add to tensions in the Middle East.
But evidence from Bulgaria about the attack and concerns over Hezbollah's growing involvement in the war in Syria persuaded opponents to back the move, which triggers the freezing of any assets the group's armed wing may hold in the 28-nation EU.
"It is good that the EU has decided to call Hezbollah what it is: a terrorist organization," Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans said on the sidelines of a meeting of EU foreign ministers who decided on the blacklisting.
"We took this important step today, by dealing with the military wing of Hezbollah, freezing its assets, hindering its fundraising and thereby limiting its capacity to act."
Mark Dubowitz, the executive director of the Washington-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies, wrote The Jerusalem Post by email, that "The decision will be partially welcomed by Washington and Jerusalem but it still ignores the evidence, including statements from Hezbollah's own leadership, that Hezbollah is not a two-winged organization neatly divided between political and military arms."
Dubowitz, a leading expert on sanctions targeting Hezbollah and Iran, added "The US government, working with Congress, now needs to use its designation and secondary sanctions authority to target all of Hezbollah's political, commercial and charitable entities in Europe and elsewhere which masquerade as legitimate players. By designating and identifying these entities, the US can lay the predicate for an expanded set of measures to encourage Europe to target Hezbollah in its entirety."
"Washington and Jerusalem should also use the Hezbollah designation to encourage Europe to take the next logical step and designate Iran's Revolutionary Guards, including their terrorist arm the Quds Force, who are Hezbollah's masters. Regardless of who is the Iranian president, they remain the long arm of the Iranian terrorist, nuclear and human rights threat, " said Dubowitz.