Hezbollah works for the Iranian regime and not the Lebanese people, a senior US diplomat said as he urged European countries to impose an outright ban on the group.
Richard Grenell, the ambassador to Germany, made the plea as Lebanon formed a new government made up of ministers nominated by the militant, Iran-backed organization and its allies.
The European Union lists Hezbollah’s military wing as a banned terrorist group, but not its political wing, which has been part of Lebanese governments in recent years.
“The EU thus maintains an artificial distinction between Hezbollah’s ‘political wing’ and ‘military wing,’ a division the terror group itself does not recognize,” Grenell said in an opinion article published by Politico.
“The EU’s stated intent for creating this false distinction is to preserve an open channel with Hezbollah and its representatives in the Lebanese government,” he added.
“An EU-wide designation of Hezbollah is necessary to deny it the vast European recruiting and fundraising networks it needs to survive.”
Grenell said the German parliament last month called on the government to ban the activities of Hezbollah and for the group to be put on the EU’s terrorist list.
The entire Hezbollah organization is designated as a terrorist group by the US, the UK, Canada, the Netherlands, Saudi Arabia and Gulf states among others.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo last week called on “all nations” to classify Hezbollah as terrorist after the UK said it had added the entire movement to its terrorism blacklist and frozen all its assets.
“Designating Hezbollah as a terrorist organization does no harm to US-Lebanese relations, but it does empower the US to disrupt the international criminal networks that help fund Hezbollah’s support for the (Syrian President Bashar) Assad regime and Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps,” he said.
Hezbollah’s large role in the formation of Lebanon’s new government under Prime Minister Hassan Diab is expected to raise concerns over the scale of the group’s hold over the country. The cabinet formed under Prime Minister Hassan Diab is facing mass protests and a dire economic crisis.
Grenell said EU states struggle to reach a consensus on “Hezbollah’s legitimacy due to its political role in Lebanon.”
Washington is “resolute in its efforts to stop the spread of Hezbollah’s terror, but we cannot contain the threat on our own,” he said.