Banned. German government designates Hezbollah a terrorist organization

The German government has banned the Lebanon based Hezbollah, the “Party of God,”  and conducted raids on four mosque associations in Berlin, Dortmund, Bremen and Münster accused of belonging to the organization

This is a big story which will receive scant attention in America.

The action by the German government is another move in the political intrigue at play involving Germany, Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Israel and, of course, the United States.

Hezbollah which has been in existence since the 1960’s receives much of its funding from Iran and is reputed to act as its proxy in the Middle east. The Shiite Islamist political, military and social organization wields considerable power in Lebanon. 

For a more thorough look at Hezbollah, a Wikipedia link is attached.

Excerpted from Deutsche Welle 4.30.2020

German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer on Thursday banned all Hezbollah activities in the country, his ministry spokesman said on Twitter.  Authorities estimate around 1,050 people in Germany are active members of the Lebanese militant group.

A group with international ties

Hezbollah maintains close ties with Iran and is seen by many as an extension of the Iranian regime. According to Nathan Sales, the coordinator for counterterrorism within the US Department of State, Iran provides Hezbollah’s Lebanon chapter with over $700 million (€643 million) per year, while the group’s annual budget is estimated to be around $1 billion.

Hezbollah II 4.30.2020

Within that financing mechanism, Hezbollah makes an estimated $300 million per year through international transactions, including drug smuggling and trafficking in counterfeit products. In order to conduct such activities on such a broad international scale, the group needs strong international roots — not just a foothold within the Middle East.

Some experts and diplomats have said that by allowing the political arm of Hezbollah to thrive in Germany, the government had effectively made the country a hotbed for money laundering.

“Germany is incredibly important for Hezbollah, because Germany is an Eldorado for money laundering,” political scientist and scholar of Islam Ralph Ghadban told DW.

Pressure had been mounting on Germany to ban all arms of the organization since before 2013. However, international calls to do so became louder after the UK implemented an outright ban on the group in February of last year.

He also confirmed that “police measures are underway in several federal states concurrently,” and added that even in times of crisis, the “rule of law is able to act.”

The police raids were focused on four mosque associations in Berlin, Dortmund, Bremen and Münster accused of belonging to Hezbollah.

Hezbollah is a Lebanese Shiite organization consisting of a political and a militant branch. It receives significant backing from Iran and has fought alongside the troops of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Germany had previously distinguished between the group’s political and militant arms, but on Thursday the country classified the group in its entirety as a terrorist organization.

“Hezbollah openly calls for the violent elimination of the State of Israel and questions the right of the State of Israel to exist,” the Interior Ministry said in a statement.

“The organization is therefore fundamentally against the concept of international understanding, regardless of whether it presents itself as a political, social or military structure.”

Read more:  Pro-Iranian militias: How autonomous are they?

What does the ban mean — at home and abroad? 

Hezbollah III 4.30.2020

The ban essentially criminalizes public expression of support for Hezbollah within Germany. Followers can no longer display the flag of the Lebanese militia, a green rifle on a yellow background.

Additionally, the total ban has effectively made it easier for authorities to take action against the group, which in turn makes it more difficult for Hezbollah to conduct transnational activities using Germany as a transit point.

Banning Hezbollah could strain relations between Germany and Iran. However, Iran is dependent on good relations with Germany and the European Union, exemplified most recently by the use of Instex, an EU-Iran trading mechanism designed to skirt US-imposed sanctions and export medical supplies to the pandemic-hit country.

The ban also risks impacting Germany’s relationship with Lebanon, as the organization has been represented as part of the Lebanese National Assembly since 1992 and makes up around 10% of all Lebanese parliamentarians. Many German politicians have opposed a total ban, saying allowing Hezbollah’s political arm to exist is essential to maintaining relations with Lebanon.

Kathrin Vogler, a spokesperson on peace policy for the Left Party parliamentary group, told DW last year that banning Hezbollah would not improve the security situation but would make things worse for it in the future, as the move gives the impression that Germany is siding with US demands. “This should be rejected with the necessary clarity,” she said.  

However, other German and international politicians and leaders welcomed the German ban.

Omid Nouripour, the foreign policy spokesperson of the Green Party in the German parliament said banning Hezbollah in Germany was “absolutely correct.”

Nouripour told DW that Hezbollah was “trying to find funding in Germany for their work in Lebanon and in Syria, and they are trying to recruit people. This is not something we can accept on our soil.”

The American Jewish Committee (AJC) praised Germany’s move to ban Hezbollah, calling it a “welcome, much-anticipated and significant German decision” in a statement.