Tuesday, July 23, 2013

EU foreign ministers agreed on Monday to put the military wing of Lebanese group Hezbollah on the bloc's list of terrorist groups. But sanctions will have little impact

    Tuesday, July 23, 2013   No comments

It's a mistake that many make when they first arrive in Lebanon. Along the highway between the airport and city center, they see portraits of a plump man hanging on buildings, billboards and street lamps. He wears a black turban and glasses, his mouth usually turned up in a smile under his bushy, gray beard. Visitors often wonder if this is Lebanon's president.

But Hassan Nasrallah holds neither the office of president, nor any other political post in the country. Nevertheless, he is a powerful man in his homeland -- perhaps even its most powerful -- as the leader of Hezbollah, the Shiite militant group and political party that heads the strongest coalition in the country's parliament. Nasrallah also directs thousands of elite fighters who are searching for like-minded recruits in the region. Thanks to Nasrallah's private army, which is fighting on the side of the Syrian regime, President Bashar Assad has the upper hand against rebels there once again.
On Monday, European Union foreign ministers agreed to put this armed wing of Hezbollah on the bloc's list of terrorist groups. The move marks a striking about-face in European policy regarding the Shiite militants. Previously, European leaders had argued that Lebanon, already in a vulnerable state, would be further destabilized if the influential group were declared outcasts.

Sanctions Won't Be Felt...

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