Britain is set to join the United States in banning the Iran-backed terrorist group Hezbollah. The United Kingdom’s home office is expected to make a formal announcement barring the Shi’a Islamist outfit from the country later this week, Reuters news agency reported Monday. The UK had outlawed the military wing of the Hezbollah in 2008, allowing its ‘political’ wing to operate in the country.
According to official website gov.uk, government’s decision is “subject to Parliament’s approval.” A vote in the British Lower House could put Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn on the spot, who once called Hezbollah his ‘friends.’ The terror designation is “expected to take force from Friday,” BBC reported.
The European Union, so far, has resisted the U.S. pressure to put a total ban on the Hezbollah, justifying its stance by citing the need to keep “channels of communications open” with the Lebanese terrorist group.
The move comes at a time when the UK is preparing to cut its ties trade and diplomatic to Brussels. As EU member, London has long advocated banning the terrorist outfit, only to face resistance from other states. According to the timetable presented by Prime Minister May’s government, the UK will formally leave the EU on March 29.
Reuters reported the British decision:
Britain said on Monday it plans to ban all wings of Hezbollah due to its destabilising influence in the Middle East, classing the Lebanese Islamist movement as a terrorist organisation.
London had already proscribed Hezbollah’s external security unit and its military wing in 2001 and 2008 respectively, but now wants to outlaw its political arm too.
“Hezbollah is continuing in its attempts to destabilise the fragile situation in the Middle East – and we are no longer able to distinguish between their already banned military wing and the political party,” Home Secretary (interior minister) Sajid Javid said.
“Because of this, I have taken the decision to proscribe the group in its entirety,” he added in a statement.
Following the British move, Israeli Security Minister Gilad Erdan urged the EU to follow the example in placing a total ban on the terrorist group. The U.S. and European intelligence agencies have repeatedly pointed to Hezbollah’s fund-raising and recruiting operations on Europe. The terrorist group is also involved in money laundering and drug trade on European soil.
However, it may not be easy to convince the establishment in Brussels. According to the Jerusalem Post, “German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government has steadfastly refused to outlaw all of Hezbollah.” With 950 operatives living in the country, Germany has emerged as a major base for Hezbollah outside the Middle East.
Thank you to the UK and my friend @sajidjavid for deciding to designate all of #Hezbollah as a terrorist group. All who truly wish to combat terror must reject the fake distinction between “military” & “political” wings. Now is the time for the #EU to follow suit! @FedericaMog
— גלעד ארדן (@giladerdan1) February 25, 2019
The Hezbollah militia was armed and trained by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, itself a U.S.-designated terrorist group, in the early 1980s to take over Lebanon and wage a terrorist campaign against neighboring Israel. In the wake of the nuclear deal, Iran had increased the funding for the terrorist outfit, giving it more than $800 million in 2017 alone. Since the Syrian conflict began in 2011, thousands of its fighters have moved into the country to fight for the Iran-backed Assad regime.
The British move will further curtail Hezbollah’s ability to raise money in the West. However, with the EU firmly refusing to place a similar ban, the terrorist group will continue to operate in Europe under the garb of its ‘political’ wing.
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