Britain has had a lasting relationship with Hezbollah, but wishes to retract slowly but surely.
Britain announced its plans to ban “all things Hezbollah” due to its destabilizing influence in the Middle East region, and went on to classify it as a “terrorist organization.” The decision to outlaw its political arm comes almost 12 years after London already proscribed Hezbollah’s external security unit and its military wing-back in 2008.
After defining the military arm of Hezbollah as a terrorist group in 2019, Britain aims now to expand sanctions and asset freezing to include the organization’s political branch.
Due to the fact that Hezbollah currently has official representation in the Lebanese government, the move could raise tensions in Britain’s relationship with Lebanon as a whole.
In a public statement, British Interior Minister Sajid Javid said: “Hezbollah is continuing in its attempts to destabilize the fragile situation in the Middle East – and we are no longer able to distinguish between their already banned military wing and the political party. Because of this, I have taken the decision to proscribe the group in its entirety.”
The Iran-backed Shiite group is already deemed a terrorist organization by the United States, which expressed concern last week about its growing role and influence in Lebanon’s government. Hezbollah has since condemned these stances by foreign powers as a “violation of sovereignty.”
Elaborating upon their decision to ban Hezbollah entirely, the British government said the organization continued to amass weapons in violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions, while its support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had “prolonged the conflict and the regime’s brutal and violent repression of the Syrian people.”
Lebanon’s Caretaker Minister of Foreign Affairs Gebran Bassil, an outspoken political ally of the group, stated that the British move would not have a negative impact on Lebanon. He said that Britain had informed Lebanon of its commitment to all other bilateral ties and agreements.
In statements obtained by Lebanon’s National News Agency, Bassil went on to defended Hezbollah, whose arms have been at the center for political division in Lebanon for decades now.
“If the entire world stood up and said the resistance is terrorism, this does not make it terrorism as far as the Lebanese are concerned,” Bassil said.
Hezbollah now controls three of 30 Ministries in Lebanon’s government, the largest number it has ever held. In Britain, Hezbollah has been a topic of internal political controversy, with opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn criticized by opponents for once calling the group “friends.”
Britain’s Treasury said it has designated the entire Hezbollah organization as a terrorist group under its Terrorism and Terrorist Financing rules, and as such its assets will be frozen.
In December the German parliamentapproved a motion urging Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government to ban all activities by the Iran-backed group on German soil, citing its “terrorist activities,” especially in Syria.