NEW YORK, Aug. 11, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- U.S. designation of Hezbollah as a primary supporter of the Assad regime's brutality "is another important step in efforts to confront the murderous Syrian regime," said David Harris, executive director of AJC, the global advocacy organization.
The U.S. government announced the new designation of Hezbollah in a conference call with reporters.
Ambassador Daniel Benjamin, the State Department's Coordinator for Counterterrorism, one of the U.S. officials announcing the new designation, said "it serves the very, very important purpose of making clear to parties around the world – both domestically and internationally – the true nature of Hezbollah's activities."
The U.S designation states that Hezbollah has been training Syrian government personnel inside Syria, facilitating training of regime forces by Iranian Revolutionary Guards, and actively helping to expel Syrian opposition forces from some areas of Syria.
"Hezbollah's actions in Syria are particularly egregious, extending and prolonging this deadly conflict," said Ambassador Benjamin.
"The Syrian people are suffering and dying at the hands of this unholy alliance of Hezbollah, Iran and the Assad regime," said Harris. "State terrorism at its worst is playing out on the streets of Aleppo, Damascus and many other Syrian cities and towns."
The U.S. designated Hezbollah as a terrorist organization in 1999. Canada, the United Kingdom and Israel have similarly labelled the group.
Several years ago, an attempt to secure European Union designation came close, but ultimately failed because a few European leaders maintained that Hezbollah, with representatives in the Lebanese Cabinet and Parliament, was a "legitimate" political organization.
"Serving at the highest levels of a government does not ipso facto legitimize a terrorist organization," said Harris. "Hezbollah should not be allowed to have it both ways -- on the one hand, maintain its own militia and global terrorist apparatus, while, on the other hand, being recognized as a legitimate political force."
Hezbollah, created with Iran's aid nearly 30 years ago, is one of the world's most dangerous terrorist organizations with a record of deadly attacks and foiled attempts in Latin America, Europe and the Middle East. Most recently, Hezbollah has been implicated in terrorist plots in two EU countries -- Bulgaria and Cyprus -- as well as in other attempts from Kenya to Thailand."
AJC last week sent letters to the foreign ministers of all 27 EU member states, the first step in a renewed campaign to encourage the EU to formally designate Hezbollah as a terrorist organization.
"European nations should be among the very first to understand the true nature of Hezbollah and the regional and global threat it continues to pose," said Harris. "It's deadly involvement in Syria, as underscored by the new U.S. designation, only further underscores the point."