Russian Influence May be Stumbling Block to European Censure of Terrorist Group
Intelligence experts are becoming increasingly worried over the threat of terror attacks this High Holiday season against Israeli citizens visiting Cyprus and Greece, according to a report published last week in the Jerusalem Post. Requests for increased police protection were also issued by Israeli officials to other countries, such as Thailand, that are expected to see a large influx of Israeli tourists in the coming weeks.
“We’ve identified a continuation of the Iranian global campaign to launch terror attacks on Israelis,” a defense source said, “The campaign is being led by Iran, with Hezbollah acting as its proxy”
Back in July, a self-confessed member of Hezbollah was arrested in Cyprus by the local authorities, who acted upon tips from Israeli Intelligence, and the plot for a future terror attack on Israeli tourists was revealed. The same week Cyprus took seat of the rotating EU presidency, authorities tracked and arrested a 24-year-old Lebanese man in the south coast town of Limassol, the island’s largest seaside resort, two days after his arrival there, carrying a Swedish passport, photographs of Israeli targets, tour bus and flight information specific to Israeli tourist travel.
The Israeli Prime Minister’s Office at that time issued a statement pointing out that Iran was behind the Cyprus plot. “There are no borders to Iranian terrorism. After Iran sent its people to assassinate – on U.S. soil – the Saudi Arabian ambassador and to perpetrate terrorist attacks in Azerbaijan, Bangkok, Tbilisi, New Delhi and Africa, its intention to perpetrate attacks in Cyprus has now been exposed,”
The Israeli National Security Council’s Counterterrorism Bureau has also asked the government of Bulgaria to increase security measures in preparation for the coming holidays for its citizens who are planning to visit the area.
Bulgaria was the scene of a deadly terrorist attack on July 18, which killed five Israeli tourists and a Bulgarian bus driver at the airport in Sarafovo. In response to the bombing, Netanyahu was quoted in the Wall Street Journal as saying that his government had gathered “unquestionable” intelligence showing that the Lebanese group Hezbollah, with Iranian support, was responsible.
Shortly after the attack in Bulgaria, Israel requested the European Union to recognize Hezbollah as a terrorist group; a request the EU flatly rejected. Summarizing Europe’s refusal to recognize terrorist organization as such, Cypriot Foreign Minister Erato Kozakou-Marcoullis said that there is “no consensus for putting Hezbollah on the list of terrorist organizations,” as Hezbollah consists of both a “[political] party as well as an armed wing,” and is “active in Lebanese politics.” [Apparently a longstanding campaign of mass murder aimed specifically at civilians doesn’t qualify as terrorism so long as the leaders of the organization responsible hold political office. -ed.]
Kozakou-Marcoullis added that the EU would reconsider their position if there were tangible evidence of “Hezbollah engaging in acts of terror.”
The push to have the EU mark Hezbollah as a terrorist organization has intensified as of late with the Dutch and British governments urging action on the matter. UK Foreign Minister William Hague issued a statement last week declaring that it was “time for Brussels to revisit the issue, at a meeting of Foreign Ministers in Cyprus.”
“I think we’ve taken action on that in the U.K. and I would like to see the EU designate and sanction the military wing of Hezbollah,” he said.
Dutch Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal struck a similar chord, saying “We have for quite some time now argued that effective European measures should be taken against Hezbollah. The fact that the U.S. has taken new sanctions due to Hezbollah’s support for the Assad regime is a new reason and opportunity to return to this issue…”
Canada, the United States and Britain have already placed Hezbollah in their lists of named terrorist organizations.
Cypriot Loyalties Questioned
While the recently revealed Cyprus plot and current security warning for Israelis visiting Cyprus, Bulgaria, and other destinations in the coming weeks is seen as part of Iran’s ongoing war on Israel, Russia’s influence on the EU presidency of Cyprus and its effect on decisions within the EU, is also seen by some experts as cause for concern. Cyprus is relying on Russian financial assistance to bail them out of financial crisis and analysts wonder what kind of strings may be attached.
Russia is maintaining that they see “no evidence” of any military dimension to Iran’s nuclear program. Russia, whose veto against moves on Syria by the UN security council, is viewed by many as Russia protecting its own interests.
In a recent Telegraph article entitled, “Cyprus Takes Over EU Presidency with Paean to Russia,” the President of Cyprus is described as “a Communist, the leader of AKEL, or the Progressive Party of Working People Party, and the only Marxist leader in the EU. Educated in the Soviet Union, he is a supporter of Vladimir Putin … and has a bust of Lenin on his desk in Cypriot Communist party’s headquarters.”
In order for the EU to place Hezbollah on the list of named terrorist organizations, it will be required that all 27 members of the bloc vote unanimously in favor. Cyprus, which currently holds the EU presidency, will play a crucial role in the vote.