It would be hard to overstate the resolve the Bulgarian government showed in making the announcement. “Sofia came under enormous pressure from among others the French and Germans to 'nuance' the report and avoid antagonizing Hezbollah,” says Omri Ceren, a senior advisor at The Israel Project. “That Bulgarian officials were willing to let the evidence guide them and expose who was behind the attack, even at this very delicate time for the European Union and for Bulgaria's place inside of it, took genuine political courage.”But if the results of Bulgaria's report are intended to force the EU to finally recognize Hezbollah as a terrorist group, the EU will have to be dragged kicking and screaming.
There had been some speculation that the Bulgarians might hint at Hezbollah involvement without naming the group and likely inviting further attacks from an outfit that has picked up the pace of its terrorist operations abroad in the last three years. As Levitt shows in his new study, “Hizballah and the Qods Force in Iran's Shadow War with the West,” since January 2010 the Lebanese group and its Iranian partners have plotted numerous attacks throughout Europe and the rest of the world, targeting Israeli embassies and Jewish communities in, among other places, Cyprus, Turkey, Thailand, Kenya, India, Azerbaijan, and Georgia.
The operation at the bus station in Burgas was one of Hezbollah’s few successes, and Bulgaria’s response comes in stark contrast to the decision recently taken by the Argentinean government to form a “truth commission” with the Islamic Republic of Iran to investigate the 1994 bombing of the Jewish community center in Buenos Aires. The purpose of the agreement is to bury the case and whitewash Hezbollah’s role in killing 85 people and wounding hundreds, exactly 18 years to the day before the Burgas bombing. Bulgaria chose instead to underscore Hezbollah’s bloody career.
Two examples Smith notes:
- EU counterterrorism official Gilles de Kerchove claimed even before the official announcement of the results of the Bulgaria report that there
is no automatic listing just because you have been behind a terrorist attack...It's not only the legal requirement that you have to take into consideration, it's also a political assessment of the context and the timing.
- EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton made a statement that
The EU and Member States will discuss the appropriate response based on all elements identified by the investigators...The High Representative underlines the need for a reflection over the outcome of the investigation.
At this point it is not at all clear that proof of Hezbollah's responsibility for a terrorist attack on European soil will be enough to force the EU's hand, so concerned is EU with putting themselves at risk.
Yet the courage of the Bulgarian government of announcing Hezbollah's connection to the terrorist attack in no uncertain terms ranks it in importance with the report of the special tribunal that found four Hezbollah members responsible for the assassination of the former prime minister of Lebanon, Rafik Hariri -- all of which indicates the enormity of the opportunity to deal a significant blow both to a terrorist group like Hezbollah as well as to a global facilitator of terrorism like Iran.
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