US urges, Germany resists putting Hezbollah ban at heart of Iran’s nuclear deal
US sources said that the German government is hampering the European approval of a major US demand to designate the militias of the Lebanese Hezbollah Party, not just its military wing, as a terrorist organization, as part of the talks to amend the Iranian nuclear deal.
Two sources familiar with the US talks with Germany, France and the United Kingdom on tackling flaws in the nuclear deal spoke to Fox News in Berlin, stating that German Chancellor Angela Merkel's administration was "the least cooperative" of the three European powers.
According to the sources, Germany is resisting the request of the US negotiating team and the position of President Donald Trump to penalize all Hezbollah groups because this demand, diplomats say, is linked to the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
The sources said that Germany considers Trump’s management pro-Israel and as a result, it does not want to ban all Hezbollah, specifically the "political wing" within its territory, where 950 members of the party collect money and recruit members.
Hezbollah is Iran's strategic arm in the Middle East and has played a crucial role in the killing of more than 500,000 civilians in the Syrian war.
Europe has imposed sanctions on Hezbollah after the organized terrorist attack in Bulgaria in 2012, which killed five Israelis and a Bulgarian citizen, but the ban included the military wing of the party only.
US officials have also met with other Europeans in London, Berlin and Paris over the past few weeks as part of efforts to modify the nuclear deal with Iran, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Action Plan (JCPOA).
The US State Department spokesperson restated Trump’s demands, when asked about Germany’s position, speaking to FoxNews on Monday, “They should designate Hezbollah — in its entirety — as a terrorist organization.”
He added: “we are working closely with our European partners to address our shared concerns with the JCPOA and Iran’s malign behavior.”
He said the US has “discussed the six non-nuclear/regional issues that the president also identified and called for stronger steps from our European allies.”
In addition to proscribing Hezbollah as a whole as a terrorist entity, the spokesperson said Trump wants the Europeans to “cut off funding to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps [IRGC], its militant proxies, and anyone else who contributes to Iran’s support for terrorism.”
The spokesperson added that the US allies should “join us in constraining Iran’s missile development and stopping its proliferation of missiles, especially to Yemen.”
He stressed that the European countries “should join us in countering Iran’s cyberthreats” and “should help us deter Iran’s aggression against international shipping.”
The spokesperson urged that the European powers “should pressure the Iranian regime to stop violating its citizens’ rights. And they should not do business with groups that enrich Iran’s dictatorship or fund the Revolutionary Guard and its terrorist proxies.”
The growing economic relations between Tehran and Berlin may also be an impediment to Merkel's making concessions on the Iran nuclear deal as German exports to the Islamic Republic of Iran climbed to €3.5 billion in 2017, or about $4.3 billion, from €2.6 billion in 2016.
The US spokesperson added that America continues to have productive talks with its European partners to see improvements – including ensuring Iran never comes close to a nuclear weapon.
Trump announced in January that the European partners would have until May 12 to work with the US to improve the Iran deal otherwise the US will pull out of the nuclear pact and likely enforce sweeping economic sanctions on Iran.
He said: “This is a last chance. In the absence of a commitment from our European allies to work with us to fix the deal’s flaws, the United States will not again waive sanctions in order to stay in the Iran nuclear deal. And if at any time the president judges that agreement is not within reach, the United States will withdraw from the deal immediately.”
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