September 17, 2020 — New York
Ambassador Nathan Sales, the U.S. State Department’s Coordinator for Counterterrorism, announced today on an American Jewish Committee (AJC) Advocacy Anywhere program that Hezbollah weapons caches, including significant stores of ammonium nitrate, have been discovered and destroyed across Europe.
“Hezbollah is active in Europe right now” and it is important for European governments and citizens to know the extent of Hezbollah’s reach on European soil, said Sales.
“Since 2012, Hezbollah has established caches of ammonium nitrate throughout Europe by transporting first aid kits whose cold packs contain the substance,” said Sales. “I can reveal that such caches have been moved through Belgium, to France, Greece, Italy, Spain, and Switzerland. I can also reveal that significant ammonium nitrate caches have been discovered or destroyed in France, Greece, and Italy. We have reason to believe that this activity is still underway. As of 2018, ammonium nitrate caches were still suspected throughout Europe, possibly in Greece, Italy, and Spain.”
Sales said the only reason Hezbollah has been stockpiling ammonium nitrate on European soil “is to conduct major terrorist attacks whenever it, or its masters in Tehran, decide.”
European designation of Hezbollah as a terrorist organization is imperative for regional security and for Lebanon’s future, said Sales.
“The European approach to Hezbollah since 2013 has not worked,” said Sales. The EU in 2013 adopted a measure that bifurcated Hezbollah into “political” and “military” wings, designating only the so-called “military” component.
“There is a growing international momentum to designate or ban Hezbollah as a terrorist organization,” he said. “It is fiction that terrorist activities can be cordoned off from the other activities of Hezbollah.”
Sales noted that an increasing number of individual European states, led by Germany and the United Kingdom, are taking decisive action against Hezbollah.
The U.S., which designated Hezbollah in 1997, has maintained an approach that both combats the terrorist organization and helps Lebanon. The U.S. has invested $2 billion in Lebanon security services since 2006, and $1 billion in economic aid, he said.
“We do not believe it’s helpful to engage Hezbollah as if it is a legitimate political actor. It’s a terrorist organization that exploits the Lebanese people,” said Sales.
Also appearing on the AJC Advocacy Anywhere program, “The Case for Banning Hezbollah,” were Sajid Javid MP, Britain’s Chancellor of the Exchequer (2019-2020) and Home Secretary (2018-2019); and Hans-Georg Engelke, German State Secretary at the Federal Ministry of the Interior. Simone Rodan-Benzaquen, Director of AJC Europe, moderated the hour-long conversation.
Engelke was emphatic that any funds Hezbollah raises in Germany are banned because they inevitably support the group’s terrorist activities. On April 30, 2020, Germany announced a ban on all Hezbollah activities in the country.
Javid noted that there has been no problem for the United Kingdom in dealing with the Lebanese government since the Hezbollah ban was put in place in 2019. Contrary to what some European diplomats asserted, “the aftermath of our decision to designate Hezbollah was nothing like what all the doomsayers had said before. Our relationship with Lebanon didn't suffer.”
For well over two decades, AJC, the leading global Jewish advocacy organization, has been urging governments across Europe and around the world to label Hezbollah a terrorist organization and take concrete measures to contain and push back its activities.