(New York, N.Y.) – Last week, Austria banned Hezbollah in its entirety, going a step further than European Union (EU) policy, which abides by a false distinction between the terrorist group’s so-called political and military wings. Vienna’s decision is the latest in a string of actions against the Iran-backed terrorist group over the last 13 months.
In May, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) imposed on seven Lebanese nationals linked to Hezbollah, and in April 2020, Germany also designated Hezbollah in its entirety. In 2013, the European Union designated Hezbollah’s so-called military wing as a terrorist entity. Several EU states had already banned Hezbollah’s military wing, but the EU decision reinforced an artificial distinction between the group’s military and political activities. Nonetheless, there has been growing recognition in EU member states of the unified reality of Hezbollah’s political and military factions. The Netherlands banned Hezbollah in its entirety in 2004, joining the United States, Canada, and other countries in recognizing that Hezbollah is a singular militant organization. In early 2018, a group of 60 European parliamentarians, led by MPs from Denmark, Sweden, and Hungary, wrote to EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini that Hezbollah should be designated in its entirety. The EU has not yet done so. In 2019, however, the United Kingdom banned Hezbollah in its entirety, while Latvia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, and Slovenia also banned Hezbollah as a whole in 2020.
With funding, arms and training provided by the Islamic Republic of Iran, Hezbollah has committed acts of terrorism across the Middle East, Europe, South America, and Asia for more than four decades. According to the U.S. Treasury’s Under-Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Sigal Mandelker in June 2018, Iran provides Hezbollah with up to $700 million annually, more than three times previous estimates. The following year, however, U.S. sanctions against Iran forced Tehran to scale back its financial support and Hezbollah was reportedly forced to cut its budget.
Intelligence agencies have linked Hezbollah to the 1983 attack on U.S. Marine barracks in Lebanon; the 1992 suicide bombing at the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires, Argentina; the 1994 suicide bombing of the Argentine Jewish Mutual Association (AMIA) in Buenos Aires; and the 2012 bombing of an Israeli tourist bus in Bulgaria. Hezbollah is also suspected of involvement in the February 2005 Beirut suicide bombing that killed 22 people, including former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. In August 2020, the Special Tribunal for Lebanon found Hezbollah member Salim Ayyash guilty of participation in the attack.
To read the Counter Extremism Project (CEP)’s Austria resource, please click here.
To read CEP’s Hezbollah resource, please click here.