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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Europe's Hezbullah ban will have an impact

I've been pooh poohing the European ban on Hezbullah because it relates only to the 'military wing' and not to the 'political wing' - a distinction that's totally artificial. But counter-terrorism expert Matthew Levitt writes that Europe's ban on Hezbullah will have an impact.
Despite the formal focus on asset freezing, the most significant impact of the EU ban will be felt on other fronts. First, it will enable EU governments to initiate preemptive intelligence investigations into activities that can be tied in any way to Hezbollah's military wing. Germany and a handful of other European countries have already conducted such investigations, but the designation will spur many others to do so. This alone is a tremendous change that should make Europe a far less attractive place for Hezbollah operatives.
Second, the ban is a strong means of communicating to Hezbollah that its current activities are beyond the pale, and that continuing them will exact a high cost. Previously, the group had been permitted to mix its political and social welfare activities with its terrorist and criminal activities, giving it an effective way to raise and launder money along with a measure of immunity for its militant activities. Today's designation makes clear to Hezbollah that international terrorism, organized crime, and militia operations will endanger its legitimacy as a political and social actor.
As for the financial angle, seizing significant amounts of Hezbollah funds is unlikely because the group's accounts are presumably registered under its nonmilitary names. But the ban will probably still curtail Hezbollah fundraising. Some of the group's members may be barred from traveling to Europe as governments become bolder in opening new investigations, and Hezbollah leaders may curtail certain activities on the continent as they assess the ban's full impact.

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