First published by Jerusalem Post, July 18, 2019
Since 9/11, and more so since the civil wars in Syria and Iraq, Europe has seen in the Sunni jihadi groups and organizations the major threat to its members states. The territorial defeat of the ISIS’s Caliphate has not changed this perception.
The Europol Terrorism Situation and Trend Report 2019 (TE-SAT), mentioning the horrific attacks perpetrated in 2018 by jihadists in Trèbes, Paris, Liège and Strasbourg, states that terrorism continue to constitute a major threat to security in EU Member States.
Catherine De Bolle, Executive Director of Europol, in her Foreword of the Report, stresses that the feeling of insecurity that terrorists try to create must be of the greatest concern because it has the potential to undermine the cohesion of European societies. The public debate about sensitive phenomena of terrorism, therefore, must be based on facts before reaching conclusions, she declares.
The TE-SAT 2019 is indeed a very well built and documented paper, containing much information and analysis, with wonderful charts and maps, about the jihadist, right-wing and left-wing extremist and ethno-nationalist activity and threat.
Strangely though, there is no word in this ample document about the Iranian and Hezbollah terrorist activity in Europe, just when this threat has returned in force during 2018.
The European media and the information provided by the various European law enforcement authorities have given ample space to the Iranian, and in a minor measure, Hezbollah terrorist plots and subversive activities during 2018.
This author has described much of this reality in a November 2018 article on the subject, The Return of Iranian Terrorism to Europe. It analyzed in detail the arrest of several Iranian agents and operatives in Belgium, France and Germany, including an Iranian diplomat in Austria, in a plot to plant a bomb to disrupt a political rally of the Iranian opposition in Paris, France (probably with Hezbollah involvement); the assassination plot of an Iranian opposition leader in Denmark, with ramifications in Norway; Iranian political assassinations in Netherlands.
In December 2018, a large group of European parliamentarians addressed a major interpellation for written answer to the Commission’s Vice-President / High Representative on “Recent state-terror activities by Iran in the EU”: 1. Does the EU acknowledge that Iranian state terrorism and Shi’a groups operating at the behest of Iran – such as Hezbollah – pose a threat to European security? 2. Why didn’t the EEAS publicly condemn the recent terror plots or at least express its solidarity with the targeted Member States? Why hasn’t the Iranian ambassador to the EU been summoned? What, if anything, is the EU doing in order to curtail Iran’s criminal and terrorist activities in Europe? 3. Is the EU considering proscribing the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and Hezbollah in its entirety in order to deter Iran from carrying out further attacks in Europe?
Finally, under Danish and French pressure, in January 2019, the EU sanctioned Iran, actually only Iran's Intelligence Ministry, over the assassination plots. The move by the 28-nation bloc was announced as the Dutch government said it believed Iran was behind the murders of two dissidents in 2015 and 2017.
In a major development, in February 2019, the UK decided to name Hezbollah as a terrorist organization and not only its military wing.
The British decision was possibly influenced by the discovery in 2015, after a tip received from the Israeli Mossad, that Hezbollah has been stockpiling bomb-making materials in London. The fact that it was not made public at the time by British leaders, suggests they were keen not to reveal any information that might have damaged the flawed nuclear agreement with Iran.
In a similar case in Cyprus at around the same time, Hassan Bassam Abdallah, a member of Hezbollah’s military wing, was convicted of possessing 65,000 ice packs filled with ammonium nitrate which he admitted were for use in future terrorist attacks in Larnaca. He was subsequently jailed for six years.
In 2012, Iran and Hezbollah have been behind a worldwide wave of terrorist attacks, mainly against Israeli, but also American and British targets, in Georgia, Azerbaijan, Thailand, Singapore, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Turkey. Fortunately, most of them were foiled by information from Israeli, American and local intelligence agencies, or failed operationally, others have not been published until now.
In India, New Delhi Police arrested Indian journalist Syed Mohammed Ahmad Kazmi, a Shi'ite with long-standing Iranian connections, for allegedly facilitating the February 13, 2012 bombing by an Iranian cell of an Israeli Embassy car, in which the wife of the Israeli defense attaché was wounded.
In Bulgaria happened the second successful attack, the killing of five Israeli citizens and one Bulgarian, in the bombing of a bus carrying Israeli tourists at the Burgas airport on July 18, 2012. Two Hezbollah operatives were involved in the attack: Australian citizen Malid Farah and Canadian citizen Hassan al-Haj, still free, probably in Lebanon.
Unfortunately, the Burgas attack was not prevented by intelligence, although two weeks earlier, local authorities arrested Hezbollah terrorist, Lebanese-born Swedish citizen, Hossam Yaakoub in Limassol, Cyprus, tasked with surveilling the arrival of Israeli tourists at the Larnaca airport. Yaakoub acted as a Hezbollah courier inside Europe, in France, Netherlands, Turkey.
But at least the trial of the Hezbollah terrorist in Cyprus convinced European Union foreign ministers to finally add “the military wing of Hezbollah” to a list of terrorist organizations, on July 22, 2013. The leaders of Hezbollah at the time jested at the European distinction between the military and political branches of the organization, while they proudly declared that the military apparatus is not separate from their overall social fabric, each member being a fighting soldier.
On July 17, symbolically 25 years after the bombing of the Asociación Mutual Israelita Argentina building (AMIA), the President of Argentina Mauricio Macri created the Public Registry of Persons and Entities Linked to Acts of Terrorism and its Financing (RePET), in a clear message to Hezbollah that it is being investigated for its participation in the attacks on the Israeli embassy and the AMIA, in 1992 and 1994. Taking advantage of the creation of the RePET, the Argentinian Financial Information Unit (UIF) "ordered the freezing of the assets of the terrorist organization Hezbollah, specific entities of the military wing that make up the same, and leaders of the organization."
The latest Iranian and Hezbollah terrorist activities in Europe, on the backdrop of the present tension concerning the nuclear deal and the situation in the Gulf, between the United States and Europe, and the Iranian leadership, demand a stronger reaction from the European Union and at least a unanimous decision to designate Hezbollah a terrorist organization. Europol for its part could publish a special paper about these nefarious activities.