US Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell on Friday demanded the German government ban Hezbollah in its entirety, saying that the Lebanese paramilitary organization sponsors terrorism and anti-Semitism.

In an op-ed published in the German daily Die Welt, Grenell called Hezbollah Iran’s “most-violent terrorist representatives,” who have “murdered innocent people” for 37 years. It is not the first time Grenell has asked Germany to ban the organization.

The op-ed comes ahead of a scheduled visit by the mayor of Tehran, Pirouz Hanachi, to the German capital on Friday.

In 2013, the EU banned the military arm of Hezbollah. But in many EU countries, including Germany, the political section is recognized.

Great Britain and the Netherlands have banned Hezbollah in its entirety as a terrorist organization, in line with the United States and Canada. Grenell emphasized that Hezbollah does not consider itself as being two separate entities.

“The EU maintains an artificial differentiation between the military and political arm of Hezbollah,” he said.
Why recognize Hezbollah?

The German government has argued that recognizing Hezbollah as a legitimate part of Lebanon’s government is necessary for political engagement with the Middle Eastern country.

Grenell has rejected this assertion and said the US, Great Britain and the Netherlands all have strong ties with Lebanon, despite having banned Hezbollah.

“Lebanon receives more development aid than any other country in the world. But at the same time, we remain true to our principles and classify Hezbollah as what it is: a terror organization.”

It was unclear how Grenell established the value of US development aid since several countries, including Afghanistan, Pakistan, Tanzania, South Sudan, Ethiopia and Jordan, received more economic aid from the United States than Lebanon, according to 2017 figures from USAID.

The German Interior Ministry could ban Hezbollah domestically under similar measures used to ban foreign entities like the “Islamic State” or Al Qaeda, said Grenell.

Anti-Semitism in Germany

Grenell also argued that the group’s tolerated presence in Germany allows it to recruit new members and solicit donations.

According to German government figures, there are currently an estimated 1,000 Hezbollah members in Germany. Groups affiliated with Hezbollah in Berlin are seen as a leading force behind annual anti-Israel Al-Quds demonstrations.

The US ambassador said a complete Hezbollah ban would be a strong sign that Germany does not tolerate anti-Semitic hate in Europe. He also pointed out that Germany’s Federal Administrative Court has already stated that Hezbollah is focused on the destruction of Israel.


Rise of Hezbollah

Hezbollah, or Party of God, was conceived by Muslim clerics in the 1980s in response to the Israeli invasion of South Lebanon in 1982. The Shiite group has a political and military wing.

National support against Israel

Hezbollah emerged in the 1980s as an amalgamation of Shiite militias and played a major role in the Lebanese civil war. It used guerrilla warfare to drive Israeli forces out of South Lebanon — Israel withdrew in 2000. Israel and Hezbollah fought another war in 2006. Its defense of Lebanon against Israel had won it cross-sectarian support and acceptance in Lebanese society.

Backed by Iran

Since its creation, Hezbollah has received military, financial and political support from Iran and Syria. Today, Hezbollah’s military wing is more powerful than Lebanon’s own army and has become a major regional paramilitary force.

Political apparatus

Hezbollah turned its focus to politics following the end of Lebanon’s 1975-1990 civil war. It represents a large section of the Lebanese Shiite population and is allied with other sectarian groups, including Christians. Their political development has mostly come under Hassan Nasrallah (pictured), who became the group’s leader in 1992.

Armed wing

Unlike other parties in Lebanon’s multi-sided 1975-1990 civil war, Hezbollah did not disband its armed wing. Some Lebanese political groups, such as Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s Future Movement, want Hezbollah to put down its arms. Hezbollah argues its militant wing is necessary to defend against Israel and other external threats.

Terror group?

A number of countries and bodies, including the United States, Israel, Canada and the Arab League, consider Hezbollah a terrorist organization. However, Australia and the European Union differentiate between its legitimate political activities and its militant wing.

Hezbollah enters Syria’s civil war

Hezbollah has been one of the main backers of Syrian President Bashar Assad in the country’s civil war. Its entrance into the war helped save Assad, one of its chief patrons; secured weapons supply routes from Syria and formed a buffer zone around Lebanon against Sunni militant groups it feared would take over Syria. As a result it has won considerable support from Shiite communities in Lebanon.


Lebanon has long been at the center of regional power struggles, particularly between Saudi Arabia and Iran. However, Hezbollah’s military and political ascendancy, as well as its intervention in Syria, have also helped stoke Sunni-Shiite sectarian tensions in Lebanon and across the region.

Renewed conflict with Israel?

Iran and Hezbollah have increased their political and military strength through the war in Syria. Israel views this as a threat and has carried out dozens of airstrikes on Iran/Hezbollah targets in Syria. Israel has vowed to not let Iran and Hezbollah create a permanent presence in Syria. There is growing concern of another war between Hezbollah and Israel that could draw in Iran.

Source » dw