Michael McCann MP: Time to take Hezbollah seriously

Ahead of his debate today, Labour MP Michael McCann says the fallacy of Hezbollah’s ‘supposed’ role in supporting Lebanese stability must be exposed.

The Boston bombings served as a tragic reminder of the threat we face from terrorism. Just days later, the foiling of a plot to blow up a railway line between Canada and the US also showed us that, whilst we may never fully understand those seeking to carry out these deadly attacks, we must do our utmost to expose and unravel the organisations and ideologies that lie behind them.

There has been much debate in recent days about the alleged connection between the Toronto terror plot and al-Qaeda in Iran. The Sunni terrorist network’s relationship with the Shia Iranian regime has raised questions over our understanding of what is going on within the Islamic Republic. However, we should not be surprised to discover closeness between Iran and a raft of major terrorist organisations.

Proscription of these terrorist organisations is essential if we are to do our utmost to protect ourselves and our allies. Hamas was blacklisted by the EU as a terrorist group in 2003. This policy clearly recognises the threat posed by Iran’s support for Hamas.

It is now time for the EU to take the threat from Iranian-sponsored Hezbollah seriously. Speaking in Cyprus in September, the foreign secretary said that he wants to see the EU designate and sanction the military wing of Hezbollah and, a month later, Shadow Foreign Douglas Alexander rightly called for the EU to proscribe Hezbollah’s military wing. The government should use this cross-party consensus to push for firm EU action.

Hezbollah is a growing international terror network, working in tandem with Iran. Israel has long faced this threat. According to Israeli Defence Force Deputy Chief of Staff Yair Naveh in May 2012, Hezbollah then had an arsenal of 60,000 rockets and missiles .

Hezbollah have allegedly been responsible for a number of international plots in recent months, one of which tragically succeeded, when a bomb killed five Israeli tourists and their Bulgarian bus driver outside Bulgaria’s Burgas airport last July.

According to Matthew Levitt of the Washington Near Institute for Near East Policy, what we are seeing is the result of new heightened cooperation between Hezbollah and the Iranian Quds Force, itself under EU sanctions for its operatives’ role supporting Bashar al-Assads’s violence against Syrian civilians. In addition to the bombing in Bulgaria there have been recent foiled attacks linked to Iran and Hezbollah in Bangkok, Baku, Tblisi, Mombasa, as well as a bombing in New Delhi which caused severe injury.

Whilst the last government proscribed Hezbollah’s military wing, Hezbollah’s significant role in Lebanese politics is the oft cited reason for why the UK has not gone further and proscribed the whole of this organisation, which even its own leader say operates under a single command. With Hezbollah politicians recently being responsible for collapsing the Lebanese government, now is the time to expose the fallacy of its supposed role in supporting Lebanese stability.

Any EU ban would send a powerful message that we do not tolerate Hezbollah’s and Iran’s terrorism.