NEAR EAST REPORT AIPAC'S BIWEEKLY ON AMERICAN MIDDLE EAST POLICY

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Members of the terrorist group Hezbollah march through the streets.
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Catherine Ashton speaks at a European Union conclave. Ashton received a letter from 79 members of Congress urging the EU to designate Hezbollah a terrorist group.

European Union Wavers on Whether to Designate Hezbollah as a Terrorist Group

The European Union (EU) is currently in the midst of the important discussion about whether to designate Hezbollah as a terrorist organization. In the summer of 2012, a suicide bomber blew up a bus full of Israeli tourists traveling through Burgas, Bulgaria, killing five passengers and the bus driver. Following the attack, Bulgaria held a trial which found Hezbollah responsible for the murder of these innocent civilians. The attack was the latest in a string of Hezbollah terror attacks and attempts throughout Europe, including a foiled plot in Cyprus, for which the court convicted a Hezbollah operative on March 21.

Hezbollah's role in the Middle East is particularly menacing now, as Iran moves closer to attaining a nuclear weapons capability, Lebanon tips towards instability and Syria teeters on complete internal collapse, with Hezbollah fighting alongside the Syrian regime's troops. Iran and Syria are transferring increasingly sophisticated weapons to Hezbollah, which has killed more Americans than any terrorist group other than al-Qaeda. Most of those weapons are stocked throughout villages near schools, hospitals, mosques and private homes, putting Lebanese civilians in constant danger. These actions are the mark of a terrorist organization, and its widespread actions throughout Europe and the Middle East must be recognized for what they are.

Congress has taken action over the last several weeks and months to address the European Union's decision on whether to designate Hezbollah as a terrorist group.

Last December, the Senate passed a resolution (S.Res.613) urging the governments of Europe and the European Union to designate Hezbollah as a terrorist organization and impose sanctions. It also urged President Obama to provide information about Hezbollah to the European allies of the United States.

Spearheaded by Sens. Joseph Lieberman (I-CT), Robert Casey (D-PA) and James Risch (R-ID), the Hezbollah Resolution is in part a show of support to the Bulgarian government for its investigation of the July 2012 terrorist attack in Burgas.

Additionally, this past February, 79 members of Congress from both parties sent a letter to Catherine Ashton, the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy for the European Union, to urge her to use Bulgaria's findings as further evidence of Hezbollah's terrorist activities.

The letter was initiated by Reps. Henry Waxman (D-CA), Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), Ted Deutch (D-FL) and Mike Kelley (R-PA). It specifies that the attack in Bulgaria is one of a string of terrorist actions in Europe and shows that Europe has taken matters to address this issue in the past.

The letter also lays out several examples of EU actions in regard to Hezbollah. It says "In May 2002, the European Union froze the assets of seven Hezbollah leaders in its financial sanctions list for terrorism. In March 2005, the European Parliament adopted a resolution recognizing that clear evidence exists of terrorist activities on the part of Hezbollah," and called on the European Union Council to take "all necessary steps to curtail them."

A second letter initiated by the same legislators was sent to Bulgarian Deputy Prime Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov, applauding the Bulgarian government for its thorough and decisive investigation following the bus attack.

In the letter, congress urged the European Union to use Bulgaria's findings as a clear imperative for action and asks that it join the ranks of the United States, Canada and the Netherlands—all of which have classified Hezbollah as a terrorist organization—and the United Kingdom and Australia—which have placed Hezbollah on their terror lists.

Israeli President Shimon Peres also joined the conversation when he traveled to Brussels in March for meetings with leaders of the European Union. Peres insisted that the fight against terror and stability in the Middle East can be strengthened by the EU's designation of Hezbollah as a terrorist organization. He applauded the EU's unity after centuries of war between European countries and voiced hope that the Middle East would one day follow that model.

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