US Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell has urged Washington’s European allies to follow the German parliament’s example and designate Hezbollah as ‘terrorists’.
“Now would be a good time for our European allies to follow the lead of the German parliament and move to designate Hezbollah a terrorist organization,” Grenell wrote, responding to a tweet about the death of a US contractor in a rocket attack on an Iraqi military base in Kirkuk Friday.
The US says that attack may have been carried out by Kata’ib Hezbollah, an Iraqi Shia militia group which the US State Department says has received weapons support from the Lebanese militia movement.
Grenell is well known for his public and outspoken lobbying of US interests in Europe. Earlier this year, the ambassador wrote letters to German companies warning them that they could face sanctions if they continued to work with Russia on the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project. German lawmakers blasted Grenell’s remarks as an attempt to meddle in the country’s internal affairs, with one senior Bundestag MP requesting that the ambassador be made persona non grata and removed from Germany.
Last week, Germany’s parliament voted in favour of a non-binding resolution urging Berlin to ban Hezbollah’s activities on German soil, calling on Brussels to add the group to a ‘terrorist list’ and to freeze the group’s assets. Mathias Middelberg, a spokesman for Chancellor Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, which sponsored the initiative, said the ban was necessary “in view of Germany’s special responsibility toward Israel.”
At the moment, Hezbollah’s military wing is listed as a terrorist entity by the EU, while its political wing remains free to operate.
The US, the UK, the Netherlands, Israel, Japan, Canada, the Arab League, and the Gulf Cooperation Council list Hezbollah as a terrorist group. France limits its designation to the group’s military wing. Russia, China, Iran, Venezuela and other countries classify the group a ‘militia’ or ‘national resistance’ movement and have not banned its activities.
Founded in the 1980s during the Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon, Hezbollah emerged as a powerful political and military movement, engaging the Israeli military in conflicts in 2000 and 2006, and deploying thousands of fighters to Syria to help Damascus fight terrorist groups including Daesh (ISIS)* and al-Nusra* in the early 2010s. The US and Israel have lobbied aggressively to designate the group as a terrorist entity in light of its anti-Israeli stance and its close ties with Iran.
* Terrorist groups outlawed in Russia and many other countries.