On Wednesday, the U.S. House passed three measures--one of them from a key member of the Florida delegation-- taking aim at Hezbollah.
The House passed the “International Financing Prevention Amendments Act" from U.S. Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif., the chairman of the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee, which sanctions regimes that provide arms and support to Hezbollah; the “Sanctioning Hezbollah’s Illicit Use of Civilians as Defenseless Shields Act” from U.S. Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Wisc., to sanction Iran and Hezbollah for using civilians as human shields; and a measure from U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Fla., the ranking Democrat on the House Middle East and Foreign Affairs Subcommittee, urging the European Union (EU) to list Hezbollah in its entirety as a terrorist organization.
Royce weighed in on what the House had done on Wednesday.
“Hezbollah is Iran’s leading terrorist proxy, and it is only growing more dangerous,” Royce said. “It now has an arsenal of more than 100,000 rockets aimed at Israel and has become battle-hardened while propping up the murderous Assad regime alongside the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. Hezbollah has taken hundreds of thousands of lives, including American lives. With the House’s action today, we send a strong message that the United States will not allow this threat to go unchecked. These critical measures will impose new sanctions to crack down on Hezbollah’s financing, and hold it accountable for its acts of death and destruction.”
Deutch took to the House floor on Wednesday to make the case for his bill. Florida Republican U.S. Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the chairwoman of the House Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee, and Gus Bilirakis were among the co-sponsors of Deutch’s bill.
“In 2013, almost exactly one year after a Hezbollah suicide bomber blew up a bus in Bulgaria killing mostly Israeli tourists, the European Union took action to finally designate Hezbollah a terrorist organization,” Deutch said in his speech. “However, they only designated what they called Hezbollah’s ‘military wing’ as a terror group, and not its ‘political wing.’ The United States has been clear that this was false distinction then, and it remains a false distinction today.
“Hezbollah is one unified terrorist organization, and it's led by the terrorist Hassan Nasrallah,” Deutch continued. “It is one unified Hezbollah that is responsible for the horrific acts of terror against Europeans, Americans, Israelis, and others across the Middle East and around the globe. It is one unified Hezbollah that has helped prop up the Assad regime, and that is complicit in the death of half a million Syrians and the dissolving of a once thriving nation. So this one unified Hezbollah should be designated as a terrorist organization, so we can increase international cooperation to isolate and dismantle this group.”
Deutch noted that this week marked the 34th anniversary of Hezbollah bombing the Marine barracks in Beirut leading more than 300 casualties.
“That attack, like so many of Hezbollah’s deadly terrorist activities over the past several decades, was sponsored and directed by Iran,” Deutch said. “And while our nation built a memorial honoring the victims of that attack, Tehran built a monument honoring the perpetrators of that attack. A full EU designation of Hezbollah now would help demonstrate Europe’s commitment to cracking down on Iran’s use of proxy terror groups destabilizing the region and attacking Western interests. Now, I understand that the EU has legal concerns about this designation, since Hezbollah has infiltrated Lebanon’s political system. However, I would just offer this observation. The terrorist organization Hamas operates as a political party in Gaza, yet the EU still rightly lists the entirety of Hamas as a terror organization. This has not impacted their ability to support Gaza reconstruction, just as designating Hezbollah would not prevent them from supporting Syrian refugees in Lebanon. Last year the Gulf Cooperation Council and the Arab League both designated Hezbollah as a terrorist organization. They made no distinction between a military and political wing despite Lebanon being a member of the Arab League. I hope the EU took note of that.
“I thank the speaker for bringing this resolution to the Floor so that my colleagues can join me in sending an important message to our European friends and allies,” Deutch said in conclusion. “More can be done to counter the Iranian proxy Hezbollah. And that begins with calling them what they are – a terrorist organization committed to the destruction of Israel and undermining the values and interests of the United States and – our EU friends must acknowledge, as well – the values and interests of Europe. The world knows that Hezbollah is a terrorist group. It’s time for the European Union to end its false distinction and join us in designating all of Hezbollah as a terrorist organization. And I urge my colleagues to support this legislation to send them that message.”
Deutch is not the only member of the Florida delegation to take a leading role on Capitol Hill in taking aim at Hezbollah. From his perch on the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., has been working in recent years with U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-NH, to bring out a similar bill to Deutch’s and sanctions measures like the ones Royce has championed.