A defining question for the world in the 21st century is how nations deal with non-State or former non-State actors (al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, Hamas for example) that use or have used asymmetric warfare and terror against civilians (both internally and externally) as a means to power, have gotten that power and still continue to use terror as a tool in their overseas operations. How nations deal with this issue is one of the defining issues of modern diplomacy.
For instance, recently there has been a stepped up move by the U.K. (and the U.S.) to get Hezbollah classified as a “Terrorist organization” by the European Union. It has faced support from nations like the Netherlands and Germany, and has faced criticism from France, The Czech Republic and Cyprus. Unlike a group like al-Qaeda – Hezbollah, (like Hamas) has become a quasi-governmental organization as well. Hezbollah, for all intensive purposes runs Lebanon and when challenged, has used its military power to overrule the Lebanese Army. Hamas, as we all know, won the last Palestinian election and now rules over Gaza with an iron fist. So… the matter becomes more complicated.
As reported in the Times of Israel
The Czech Republic seemed even more skeptical of an impending move to blacklist the organization. “Hezbollah on one side is a military organization, which does quite a lot of mischief,” Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg told The Times of Israel last month, adding that, “On the other hand, it is in a theoretically sovereign state recognized as a political party.”
The fact that Hezbollah officials are members of the Lebanese government further complicates matters, he explained. “What should my ambassador do when he is in Beirut and he comes to a reception? Say ‘No minister, you’re a terrorist, I don’t speak to you’? This labeling makes not a lot of sense. It belongs to the propaganda war.”
To a degree Minister Schwarzenberg has a point. Relations between nations do happen and sometimes you have to talk with those that are less than savory actors on the world stage.
The European Jewish Congress though disagrees.
For the European Jewish Congress, the EU’s expected move was too little. “Proscribing just part of the Hezbollah infrastructure will not prove effective enough and will allow this terrorist organization to carry on targeting innocent civilians in Europe and elsewhere,” EJC President Moshe Kantor said Wednesday.
“Unfortunately, some believe that Hezbollah is an organization that has different and separate parts and that it is merely a political organization which has an armed wing and this move will squelch its ambitions. On the contrary, Hezbollah was formed as a violent terrorist organization and merely entered politics to further its maximalist aims.”
I believe that while Kantor makes a solid point, particularly about Hezbollah being formed as a terrorist organization I think there is strong evidence that points to the fact that its goals have changed and evolved beyond just terror. Hezbollah, at this point (like Hamas) are quasi State actors and as such need to be treated in that matter. It is not JUST a terror organization, it is much more. So, the question becomes, can a State actor or it’s military wing (armed forces) also be classified as a “Terror Organization?”
In the case of Hezbollah the answer is a resounding yes. Hezbollah while acting in a State role still maintains a military wing that is separate from the country in which it effectively runs and holds positions in the government. There is the Lebanese Army, and then there is Hezbollah. SO, to answer the Czech Foreign Ministers question, the answer is “Yes, you tell that diplomat that you cannot deal with them because in fact, Hezbollah is a terror organization”. This is not just propaganda, this is a choice by that nation and it’s people (as Hezbollah was elected) to have this group represent them. Had Hezbollah folded its operations into the Lebanese Armed Forces then you have a much less clear answer BUT, as things stand now, one can call it Terrorist Organization which has other aspects as well.
This brings up an effort regarding Iran by The Zionist Federation of the U.K. (ZF). The Federation has started an online petition to get the Iranian Revolutionary Guard classified as a Terrorist Organization by the E.U. and Government of the U.K.
In their press release the ZF states the following:
“We are calling on the EU and the UK to proscribe the IRG as a terrorist organization due to it being a leader in state sponsored terrorism. The IRG has also been active in sponsoring and supporting terrorism including in Europe, as well as targeting the UK, through attacks on UK soldiers. It is also a major funder and trainer of international terrorist groups including Hezbollah and Hamas, making it a major protagonist in global terrorism.
Paul Charney, Chairman of the ZF said, “The EU and the UK must take practical steps to deal with international terrorism. By proscribing the IRG, it would be showing its commitment to fighting terrorism and protecting the security of EU citizens”.
But, unlike Hizbollah, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard is officially part of the Iranian Armed Forces. While they are separate units within the Armed Forces of Iran, they are not outside of the power of the Government of Iran. This brings into the process a thorny issue. How does one deal with this? Are all of the Armed Forces of Iran to be considered Terrorist?
These are important questions to answer because if it is determined that the Revolutionary Guard is a “Terror Organization” then it is possible to then say that the Iranian Armed Forces are a “Terror Organization” and as official organs of State policy, the Iranian Government itself is a “Terror Organization”.
Of course when dealing with that, couldn’t one make the claim that any nation that causes civilian casualties is in effect a “Terrorist Organization”. For instance, one might claim that when the U.S. Armed Forces mistakenly bombs a wedding party in a drone attack, that they are acting as a Terror Organization, and if that is the case, couldn’t one call the U.S. a “Terrorist State”.
The answer here is I believe has to be a resounding “No”. I believe that what this comes down to is “intent”. IF that wedding party and the civilians attending that party are attacked with the intention of terrorizing the populace and forcing them to submit then absolutely, that is terrorism. IF, however, that attack is a mistake (and it was) or if it is a surgical strike gone awry, after a single military target during war time, then I don’t believe it can be called a “Terror strike”.
So this brings us to the argument of intent regarding the Revolutionary Guard. I think that it is clear that the Government of Iran has engaged in State Sponsored Terror. The actions of the Quds wing of the Guard shows this. They specifically have been involved with Hezbollah and Hamas in targeting civilians for terror attacks and their operatives have been stopped in the past from attacking Israeli citizens as well as Jews around the world.
To deal with this the ZF recommends that the E.U. in general and the U.K. in particular, at the minimum follow the example set by Canada in 2012. At that time, the Harper government officially designated Iran a “State Sponsor of Terror” AND specifically designated the Quds Unit of the Revolutionary Guard a “Terrorist Organization”. Of course, declaring ALL of the Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization would be what Zionist Federation would really like to see.
There is a strong case for what the ZF asks for as well. After all, the Quds unit is an official unit in the Revolutionary Guard, and does represent the Guard in its international efforts. Given that, the Quds unit does engage in terror both on its own and with surrogates Hezbollah and Hamas, I think the case is strong for declaring the I.R.G. a “Terrorist organization”.
So what does this mean? Well, it means that European Governments would be better able to effectively handle the presence of Iranian military personnel in their nations. By limiting access of the Guard to their nations, they would help reduce the risk of terror to their citizens in general and their Jewish citizens in particular. Also, it would impose restrictions on funding for the Guard and to Iran in general. Funding that in the past has gone to terrorizing the populations of these nations.
Take a look at the links provided. This is an effort from across the political spectrum, left, right, and center. I urge people to get informed here and support the Zionist Federation of the U.K. in their efforts to get the Revolutionary Guard properly classified as a “Terrorist Organization”.