Monday, May 5, 2014

Hezbollah in Berlin: Assessing the Unconventional Terrorism Threat


photo: www.asianscientist.com

In contrast to France, Germany has been reluctant to list or act against Hezbollah. Until very recently, Germany allowed Hezbollah to run an organization called the Orphans Project Lebanon which raised funds for families of suicide bombers involved in killing Israelis. A 2009 report from the European Foundation for Democracy, titled "Hezbollah's fund-raising Organization in Germany," revealed that the Orphans Project Lebanon, situated in Gottingen, Lower Saxony, is "the German branch of a Hezbollah sub-organization that 'promotes suicide bombings' and aims to destroy Israel." See: http://www.jpost.com/Diplomacy-and-Politics/Israel-plays-key-role-to-Berlin-Hezbollah-terror-label-314452 Germany has also allowed Hezbollah to operate a television broadcast 'Al-Manar TV. France banned Al-Manar programming because of anti-Semitic. See: http://www.jpost.com/Diplomacy-and-Politics/Israel-plays-key-role-to-Berlin-Hezbollah-terror-label-314452

Germany's position on Hezbollah remains concerning at the highest levels of the European Community, as well as with several security services. While there are approximately 950 Hezbollah members living in Germany, 250 in Berlin alone, and Hezbollah has been directly tied to a bus bombing in Bulgaria, which killed 5 Israeli's and wounded 32, the German government remained reluctant, until very recently, to designate Hezbollah as a terrorist organization. In an up-dated post I noted that Germany has finally taken action against Hezbollah's Orphans Project Lebanon, and while this is a fist step, European concerns regarding Germany and their Hezbollah relationship run deeper.

Hezbollah is a rather unique terrorist organization. Its supported by Iran and Syria and provides, what some would consider state provisions to civilians in Lebanon; essentially running a state within a state.

"Hezbollah controls 60 percent of municipalities in southern Lebanon and has been successful in gaining posts in Beirut’s southern suburb, besides controlling 27 out of 30 contested municipalities in the Bekaa Valley.5 Such a strong local and national presence makes it difficult for international donors and governmental entities to avoid interaction with Hezbollah. However, beyond its military and political roles, Hezbollah operates an extremely sophisticated network of health and social-service providers that far exceeds the capacity of the Lebanese state." See: http://www.mepc.org/journal/middle-east-policy-archives/hezbollahs-social-jihad-nonprofits-resistance-organizations



Train station hit by Hezbollah/photo: www.idfblog.com
Until 911, Hezbollah had killed more American citizens than any other terrorist organization. It is not marginalized by any sense of the imagination and poses a very real threat to Europe, not only in terms of conventional terrorism, but unconventional terrorism as well. Hezbollah receives military support from Iran and political support from Syria. Hosting Hezbollah or simply monitoring their members, may not be enough to prevent the use of unconventional terrorism methods, particularly biological, which is ideal for deniable operations. Hezbollah has received almost every class of weapon Iran has ever produced. It is concerning that both Iran and Syria run biological warfare programs, Syria by their own admission: http://www.ibtimes.com/syria-admits-it-has-chemical-biological-weapons-730127

It goes without saying, but the risk of allowing Hezbollah a safe haven in Berlin or any other city in Germany increases the potential they will use unconventional weapons in terrorists tactics in Europe. Unfortunately, with biological warfare agents, it is likely any 'weaponized' agent will have been provided to Hezbollah by either Iran or Syria. The sophistication of the weaponized agent, perhaps developed in a military laboratory is therefore more concerning from a mass casualty perspective. The release of a biological agent in a subway system, airport or other enclosed mass transit area could be an immediate global health issue. Problematic is not only the stance Germany has taken on Hezbollah, but its seemingly laid back approach to Syria's biological weapon programs and the link between Hezbollah and Syria. This is particularly disturbing given the current conflict in Syria and the potential for Assad to transfer sections of his BW programs to Hezbollah and Iran. Lack of initiative on the part of Germany places the global community at risk of unconventional attacks.

Should Hezbollah or returning fighters from Syria (Germany as well as the Netherlands has disproportionate rates of nationals returning from the front), decide to use biological agents in an attack, several of the known agents which Syria and Iran work on, are highly transmissible. As Assad crosses the red line and uses chemical weapons, it is not out of the question to consider Hezbollah using a BW agent against targets in Germany. Even a low-level hit with a weapon developed at the SSRC or in Tehran would be an immediate global health concern. As Germany turns a blind eye to Syria's biological weapon programs, the close relationship they have shared for decades with the Syrian regime, the large numbers of German nationals currently fighting in Syria and the large number of Hezbollah allowed to live in Germany, they put us all at risk.

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