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Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Bulgaria concludes Hezbullah behind July terror attack: Will the EU care?

As expected, Bulgaria announced on Tuesday that it has concluded that Hezbullah was behind the terror attack against a tourist bus at the Burgas Airport in July. Five Israelis and the Bulgarian bus driver were killed in the attack. There have been indications over the last few months that in the event that it was determined that Hezbullah was behind the attack on Bulgaria, an EU-member state, that the European Union would at long last ban Hezbullah and its fundraisers. But, as I noted in an earlier post, France, Germany and Britain are all fearful of naming Hezbullah as a terrorist organization.

This is from the first link.
Three people were involved in the attack, two of whom had genuine passports from Australia and Canada, Tsvetan Tsvetanov told reporters after Bulgaria's national security council discussed the investigation.

"We have established that the two were members of the militant wing of Hezbollah," Tsvetanov said. "There is data showing the financing and connection between Hezbollah and the two suspects."


Tehran has denied responsibility and accused Israel of plotting and carrying out the blast. Hezbollah has not publicly responded to charges by Israel and US agencies that it played a role.

The Netherlands said in August that the EU should follow the lead of the United States, which designated Hezbollah as a terrorist organization in the 1990s, a move that would enable the EU to freeze Hezbollah's assets in Europe. 
It's important to note that of all the 'soft targets' Hezbullah could have chosen in Europe, there was a reason for choosing Bulgaria: It was a way of attacking the United States by attacking a country that provided troops for the operations in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
Wednesday’s bombing is the first terrorist attack in Bulgaria since the Communist era. Unlike the U.K. or Spain, Bulgaria isn’t considered a key European target for international terrorists. Corruption and transnational crime represent much greater threats to Bulgarian security than terrorism. However, after the events of September 11, 2001, Bulgaria identified itself as a close ally of the United States and has maintained close diplomatic relations with Israel.
Since Bulgaria sent a contingent of troops to both Iraq and Afghanistan to demonstrate solidarity with the United States’ war on terror, Bulgarian security authorities have recognized that the country could become a target for terrorism.  Clearly, the Burgas bombing caught the Bulgarian security forces by surprise, perhaps not least because Bulgaria itself wasn’t the terrorists’ target.
But Bulgaria did more than provide troops. It has actually become a close ally of the United States. The following comes from a mailing I received from the Israel Project.
Wikileaks cables from 2007 indicate that the U.S.’s “primary goal [was to] increase Bulgaria’s capacity to deploy and fight interoperably with U.S. and NATO forces overseas” (http://is.gd/NFq8gW). Progress toward that goal, coupled with Bulgaria’s status as a close U.S. ally, contributed greatly to close bilateral ties.
  • U.S.-Bulgarian interoperability: Since 2007, there have been three joint training exercises between the U.S. 31st Fighter Wing out of Aviano AB and Bulgarian pilots. The most recent, Thracian Star 2012, involved more than 500 U.S. airmen flying 556 sorties over 16 flying days (http://is.gd/cxSWGo & http://is.gd/xl2q7T).
  • NATO-Bulgarian interoperability: Bulgaria completed a major NATO interoperability program in 2011, laying the groundwork for future joint operations (http://is.gd/KemcX8). The country currently participates in a half-dozen of NATO’s Smart Defense projects and will open a NATO Crisis Management Center in Sofia in the coming months (http://is.gd/3kSxDH & http://is.gd/fBn66b). The center will focus on drafting strategy and training specialists.
  • Military basing: A December 2005 U.S.-Bulgarian Defense Cooperation Agreement gives the United States military access to and shared use of several Bulgarian military facilities (http://is.gd/uhSeDU). Last year Sofia expressed its desire to host more U.S. bases (http://is.gd/iFsd1z). Bulgaria’s willingness to host American military assets has become particularly critical as some NATO allies have sought to place conditions on U.S. basing: Bulgaria offered, for instance, to host NATO missile defense assets at a time when their placement in Turkey was uncertain (http://is.gd/ngQXM7).
  • Economic relations: A Financial Times evaluation of Bulgaria at the end of 2012 affirmed statements by Bulgarian officials to the effect that economically the country is “an absolute island of stability” (http://is.gd/XpTH8Y). Last week, Bulgarian economic officials outlined an expected “wave” of U.S. investors (http://is.gd/B2VOeN) seeking to establish footholds in the country before an expected Chinese investment boom gains traction (http://is.gd/FXg1ii). The U.S. State Department describes the investment climate as “generally positive” and notes that the “top foreign investor in Bulgaria is a U.S. company” (http://is.gd/uhSeDU). Ambassador Ries recently echoed those points (http://is.gd/jIdUWo).
As you can see, Bulgaria is in fact a close American ally. And at the outset of this investigation it seemed clear that if Hezbullah was behind the terror attack, the European Union would declare them a designated terror organization. So what happened? As I noted in that earlier post, France fears for its UNIFIL troops and Germany fears the estimated 900 Hezbullah agents who live in Germany.

US officials have severely criticized the EU's refusal to designate Hezbullah as a terrorist organization numerous times, most recently this past weekend.
It is a “very bad thing that Hezbollah can operate in Europe regarding fund-raising and logistics,” US Ambassador Daniel Benjamin, a former coordinator for counterterrorism at the State Department in the first Obama administration, said. Hezbollah’s legal status in the EU “undermines security goals,” he said.
“If you want to put a dent in Hezbollah activities, it would be a positive thing” to outlaw the Lebanese group, and an EU terror “designation would be a blow to Hezbollah’s legitimacy,” Benjamin said.
The London-based Henry Jackson Society and the Washington- based Foundation for Defense of Democracies think tanks hosted a series of panel discussions with a who’s who of global experts on Iranian sanctions, human rights in the Islamic Republic, and the use of military force to stop Iran’s illicit nuclear program.
So who is better able to pressure the Europeans? The United States, which may rant and rave but has made itself powerless over the last four years? Or Hezbullah, which can threaten European lives and freedom?

This doesn't look good. While I hope and pray that Europe will do the right thing and ban Hezbullah, I'm not betting on it.

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