In recent years Europe has been subject to an unprecedented terror threat which has destabilised our societies and left blood in the streets of towns and cities across the continent. Yet a policy of appeasement towards the world’s most capable and potentially dangerous terrorist organization is endangering Europeans across the continent and beyond, orchestrated by a country Europe still seeks to appease, in the form of Iran.

The Sunni Jihadists of al-Qaeda and Islamic State have certainly been responsible for more casualties and have been able to amplify their message in the media most effectively. However, it is the more calculated and insidious long-term threat from the Lebanese Shiite extremists of Hezbollah which Europe must now (re)awaken to.

The European Union currently designates the ‘military wing’ of Hezbollah as a terrorist group but not the ‘political wing’. It is true that Hezbollah is simultaneously one of the largest parties in the Lebanese parliament and an active terrorist and criminal enterprise – but the distinction is a false one which exists only in the imagination of European policymakers.

Although there are functional divisions and councils responsible for different areas of Hezbollah’s complex and myriad operations, all wings report directly to the same leadership council under Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah’s Secretary-General – a structure not unlike any other large-scale operation in business or government.

Even top Hezbollah officials have publicly rejected any separation between the group’s activities, with Hezbollah deputy Sheikh Naim Qassem telling a Lebanese newspaper: “Hezbollah’s secretary-general is the head of the Shura Council and also the head of the Jihad Council, and this means that we have one leadership, with one administration.”

Despite proving a threat since the 80s, fear of complicating relations with Lebanon and provoking Iran, means the EU has avoided designating the entire organisation as a terrorist group. Yet the United States, Canada, the Netherlands and more recently the United Kingdom have shown that it is possible, and entirely legitimate, to adopt this very action. If the EU now refuses to do so, then it must explain why.

In the 1980s Hezbollah attacked a number of European targets, including French military bases and diplomatic targets in the Middle-East, as well as killing civilians at shopping centres and restaurants in mainland France and Spain. They have historically carried out violent acts on European soil that Iran may wish it could have but can’t be seen to.

In the Syrian Civil War, Hezbollah has proven one of the most effective and capable fighting forces at the disposal of the brutal Assad regime in Damascus, participating in human rights abuses against Syrian civilians and losing up to 1,500 fighters in the conflict. They have been on the opposing side of Europe in this and other conflicts, supporting a regime the European Commission completely withdrew its support for.

On the continent itself, Hezbollah’s terror attacks have declined somewhat since the 1980s but there can be no doubting their strength, particularly with Tehran’s backing. German officials have estimated that up to 900 operatives are active in Germany, and earlier this month it was revealed that British security services had uncovered a Hezbollah ‘bomb factory’ in 2015 on the outskirts of London.

Despite the relative lull in attacks against Europeans, Hezbollah has still not shied away from attacking Israelis in Europe, including the bombing of an Israeli tourist bus in Bulgaria in 2012, killing 5 Israelis and the driver.

The new European Parliament has an opportunity to listen to Hezbollah themselves and end the fantasy that there are distinctive political and military organisations.

By not fully designating Hezbollah as a terrorist organisation, Europe is not only affording fanatics the breathing room to engage in activities which finance the killing of Israelis and Syrians, it is appeasing a confrontational Iran which is destabilising the entire Middle-East. Tehran has shown a willingness before to use its proxies as terrorists to punish its global adversaries – Europe must take action or else European civilians may once again be on Hezbollah and Iran’s hitlist.

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