Former US ambassador to Germany and current Director of National Intelligence, Richard Grenell, has been working closely with German authorities these past few years to counter Hezbollah’s network in Germany. His efforts paid off as Berlin soon added the organisation’s military and political wings into its list of designated terror groups. This development cannot be understated as the Secretary General of Hezbollah recently made a live appearance where he denied any group activity in Europe. In his speech, Nasrallah made a reference to the institutions that were raided by German authorities earlier this month, as several individuals linked with the group were arrested throughout the country. Naturally, the Secretary-General denied any links between Hezbollah and these institutions, but the leader’s lies and denials are futile now. This is because German law enforcement, unlike its counterpart in Lebanon, is not a corrupt institution, this means that Hezbollah cannot bribe, blackmail or force German authorities to fabricate or redact case files that highlight its illicit activities. Furthermore, Germany has always had a history of cautious diplomacy meaning that it strays away from policies of cutting off communications with states or institutions that it disagrees with. This is the reason why for the longest time it tolerated Hezbollah’s political wing, and only considered its military wing a terrorist group. As such, Berlin’s recent decision to ban the group in its entirety means that it has gathered conclusive evidence that shows the group and its affiliates of undertaking a number of activities, which undermine German law.
Hezbollah claims that Germany’s decision has to do with the group’s position on the Palestinian issue, but such claims are fallacious to say the least, since it implies that the German government has never stood on the side of the Palestinians. For instance, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas has been one of the most passionate politicians who stood for the Palestinians, and in many cases he has been more ardent on the Palestinian issue than even Hezbollah itself. Furthermore, the German Foreign Minister has been vocal about his opposition of the US’s “confrontational” policies towards Iran, and he has supported the facilitation of trading channels with Iran, in a manner that does not violate US sanctions, of course.
Many terrorist groups have found a safe haven in Germany since its authorities fear accusations claiming that they are targeting a group because it attracts members who are not of German heritage, or ethnicity. One mustn’t forget that the atrocities, which Jews faced at the hands of the Nazis during the Holocaust, are still entrenched in German collective memory. However, these relaxed laws have come at a cost, case in point the formation of the Hamburg Al Qaeda Cell, which a young Lebanese student by the name of Ziad Jarrah was a member of. Eventually Jarrah became one of the hijackers that caused the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Centre in New York.
It is no surprise that Hezbollah has a presence in Germany considering the fact that the country’s laws gave it relative freedom to operate. Moreover, residing in an Schengen country like Germany gives groups like Hezbollah the opportunity to move throughout the rest of Europe.
Germany's decision to place Hezbollah on the terror list will undoubtedly have financial implications for Hezbollah. These German-based, Hezbollah-linked institutions served the group both in terms of security and finance. In addition to their banking facilities, these institutions were exempted from paying taxes. This was because German law exempts religious organisations from paying taxes, and these institutions were guised as such. This development will, of course, hinder many of Hezbollah and Iran’s actions and the raided institutions will surely be added to the sanctions list.
Today, US pressure is shifting towards France in hopes that it, and other European countries, will follow Germany’s suit and add Hezbollah to their lists of designated terror groups. Such actions would deny Hezbollah, its institutions and businessmen access to the European banking system. Undoubtedly that would be a huge blow to Hezbollah and the Iranian regime.
What is happening with Hezbollah is somewhat reminiscent of the fate of Pablo Escobar, the leader of the World Medell Indión. The group had a massive monopoly over the world’s cocaine production, as it possessed 80 per cent of the global cocaine production. Additionally, the group had massive stakes in the illicit US drug market (75 per cent) and that, of course, became the primary reason for its demise. Escobar attempted to improve his public image as he took part in politics and charity work, however his success in illicit activities could not be ignored and he was eventually executed. One could say he was a victim of his success.
If Hezbollah and Iran continue to confront the US, pursue expansionist projects and attempt regional destabilisation, then they must prepare for a colossal retaliation, the likes of which they have never seen before.