The UK government has added the political and military branches of Lebanese Hezbollah to its terrorist list following a decision initiated by Home Secretary Sajid Javid and approved by Parliament. Hezbollah, or the “Party of God” is now one of the 74 foreign groups and 14 other groups related to Northern Ireland on the list. Any support to this organisation falls under the Terrorism Act of 2000. In the same act, under the rubric of fund-raising, offences, article 15, it clearly states that any person commits an offence if he invites others to provide money or other property to a proscribed group. Since the General Secretary of Hezbollah Sayed Hassan Nasrallah and the government of Iran both overtly acknowledge the financial, military, technical, intelligence and other social services support that Iran provides to the organisation, a clear question arises for the UK government: Will the Iranian government be included on its terrorism list, or is the UK government ready to violate its own law? What is the real purpose behind the UK decision?
The point is not to identify Hezbollah as a terrorist group. The goal is rather to prevent donations from reaching Hezbollah at a time when Iran is under heavy sanctions meant to limit its cash flow and, consequently, impede its financial support to groups like Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Syrian government, and other groups in Iraq and Yemen. This is what the UK Home Secretary Sajid Javid meant by “secret intelligence” during his last intervention at the House of Commons. Time will tell if this secret intelligence has been correctly understood and will serve the UK’s desired objectives.
The Terrorism Act of 2000, under funding arrangements, article 17 (a) and (b), states as follows: “A person commits an offence if he enters into or becomes concerned in an arrangement as a result of which money or other property is made available or is to be made available to another… that will or may be used for the purposes of terrorism”.
Article 12, under the rubric “Support”, is explicit: “A person commits an offence if he invites support, provision of money for a proscribed organisation, and arranges a meeting to support or encourage support for a proscribed organisation, or participates in a private meeting…”
The text of the articles is unambiguous: anyone who supports or meets with Hezbollah individuals or commanders is subject to a maximum of 10 years of prison. These clauses cannot but apply to Iran, the first and utmost supporter of Hezbollah.
Iranian officials, beginning with Foreign Minister Jawad Zarif, can no longer visitSayed Nasrallah and then go to the UK or meet UK officials without risk of imprisonment, now that the UK officially classifies Hezbollah as a terrorist organisation.
Hezbollah’s yearly budget to operate in Syria and Lebanon and to support any other group with weapons or transfer of expertise is provided by the Iranian government, together with additional funds that Sayed Ali Khamenei provides from donations to the Imam Reza shrine. Thus, in accordance with the 2000 legislation, the UK can be expected to cut its relationship with Iran at once.
Politically speaking, Hezbollah meets in private and overtly with all political leaders of Lebanon. These meetings begin with the Christian President Michel Aoun, the Sunni Prime Minister Saad Hariri, the Shia Speaker Nabih Berri, and the Ministers of Foreignaffairs Joubran Basil, Defence Elias bu Saab, Health Jamil Jabq and Finance Ali Hasan Khalil, and most political leaders of the country. This imposes – theoretically – on the UK government the obligation to reject any entry visa to all these politicians and to prevent any meetings with their diplomats after March the 3d, 2019.
What if the UK breaks its own laws and its officials meet with Hezbollah officials or those who hold private meetings with its leaders, in defiance of the UK Terrorism Act of 2000? If this happens, it will be difficult for any UK court to uphold a solid case against any Hezbollah supporter since UK officials regularly meet with their Iranian counterparts, who are responsible for funding Hezbollah.
The “Party of God” has no offices or representatives in any city around the world, even among the millions in the Lebanese community living abroad. Of course, there are thousands of Hezbollah supporters in the Lebanese Diaspora, notably Christians from the Tayyar al-Watani party led by President Aoun and his son-in-law the Foreign Minister Basil. And there are many more supporters among Shia in the diaspora who originate from the south of Lebanon, the Bekaa Valley, Beirut and its suburbs. They have family members or cousins who operate within Hezbollah or at least support the organisation; some of these “Diaspora Shia” have adopted overtly Hezbollah’s cause on their own personal initiative.
Most of these Lebanese consider the cause of Hezbollah as their own because the group defended their Christian villages and cities from al-Qaeda and ISIS when these groups were based on the borders with Lebanon and in the Lebanese city of Arsal, with plans to expand into Lebanon. They consider Hezbollah the only force capable of protecting their homes in the south of Lebanon from any future Israeli aggression, in the face of daily Israeli violations of Lebanese sea, air and ground sovereignty.
There is no doubt that these enthusiastic Lebanese will be the favourite targets of Britain’s domestic security forces who are looking to register “a security achievement” of any kind. The problem was on the table in many cities around the world when Lebanese Shia sought to fulfil their Islamic tithing duty by donating 20% of their year-end profits. According to some Fatwas (Shia are free to follow the highest religious authority in accordance with their understanding of Islam), this 20% can be donated to the “Islamic Resistance”, i.e. Hezbollah. From now on anyone sending money for this Islamic purpose that ends up in Hezbollah coffers must be considered a financer of a terrorist organisation.
This same issue was a serious problem for Lebanese in the USA who were obliged to stop sending money back to Lebanon except for family members. Lebanese communities in many countries voluntarily observed the same restrictions in order to avoid severe penalties or jail in the west, causing a reduction in donations to Hezbollah. Thus, Hezbollah today relies exclusively on Iranian support.
The new measures in the UK do not aim to interfere with Hezbollah’s “non-existent” presence in the West and equally non-existent bank accounts abroad, nor do they aim to close Hezbollah offices that do not exist abroad. The new measures have the goal of tightening the noose around the neck of the community that supports Hezbollah.
The West began this process inside Lebanon by going after Lebanese banks and the accounts of wealthy Shia. Even exchange offices who change Hezbollah’s euros into dollars were included on the terrorist list. Wealthy Shia businessmen who sympathise with Hezbollah and who were involved in projects in Iraq saw their assets frozen by Iraq’s former Prime Minister Haidar Abadi in response to an official US request.
The western measures may succeed in making life more difficult for pro-Hezbollah Christians and Shia around the world. Nevertheless, the majority of Lebanese cannot renounce Hezbollah any more than they can renounce their own families, because Hezbollah is integral to their existence; nor is it confined to their homes and family members. Its ideology of Resistance informs their creed and world view, and this is the case whether or not they believe in Islam.
By Elijah J. Magnier
Source: Elijah J. Magnier