US ambassador to Germany urges EU to ban Hezbollah

Richard Grenell said the Iran-backed group was raising revenue in Europe

epa08111841 US Ambassador to Germany Richard Allen Grenell (R) prior to the 12th WELT economic summit at the headquarters of the Axel Springer SE in Berlin, Germany, 08 January 2020. About 60 business personalities and politicians discuss about future economic policy challenges.  EPA/HAYOUNG JEON
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The United States’ ambassador to Germany has urged the European Union to classify Hezbollah as a terrorist organisation.

Richard Grenell, the envoy to the biggest country in the EU, wrote in Politico that Berlin had made the move to designate the Iran-backed group and the rest of the bloc should follow.

“Hezbollah works for the Iranian regime, not the Lebanese people, who have protested against Iran’s influence in their country since October,” he wrote.

The EU has proscribed Hezbollah’s military wing but not its political arm, meaning the group can raise funds and recruit followers in Europe.

Some European countries including the UK and the Netherlands have already designated Hezbollah alongside the US, which has imposed financial sanctions on the group. But the US envoy said the group could still raise income in other European countries.

“Hezbollah’s coercive influence over Lebanon’s financial sector, and its operational freedom within the European Union, allow it access to the revenue it needs to weather the storm of sanctions,” Mr Grenell wrote.

“The US is resolute in its efforts to stop the spread of Hezbollah’s terror, but we cannot contain the threat on our own. As with similar challenges, the US requires the support of its European allies.”

The American ambassador met with two German MEPs on Wednesday in Brussels to discuss his proposal.

David McAllister and Michael Gahler said they would try to “draft something that finds sufficient support” in the European Parliament.

The call is likely to face an obstacle with France, the third largest economy in the EU, which has previously opposed moves to proscribe Hezbollah. Paris has continued to deal with Hezbollah’s political faction because of its influence over the politics of Lebanon, a former French colony.

Hezbollah is accused of plotting and carrying out terror attacks across the globe, and Iran has been widely criticised for its backing of the group.