Iran on Friday slammed Germany’s ban on the activities of Lebanese terrorist organization Hezbollah on its soil, saying it would face consequences for its decision to give in to the “propaganda machine” of Israel and US.
Germany branded the Iranian-backed group a “Shiite terrorist organization” on Thursday, with dozens of police and special forces storming mosques and associations across the country linked to the Lebanese terror group.
In a statement issued overnight, Iran’s foreign ministry said the ban ignores “realities in West Asia.”
The Islamic republic said the move was based solely on the goals of the “propaganda machine of the Zionists and America’s confused regime.”
It “strongly” condemned the decision it said showed “complete disrespect to the government and nation of Lebanon, as Hezbollah is a formal and legitimate part of the country’s government and parliament.”
Iran said Hezbollah had a “key role in fighting Daesh’s terrorism in the region,” using the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State group.
“The German government must face the negative consequences of its decision in the fight against real terrorist groups in the region,” it added.
Germany on Thursday officially announced that it has outlawed activities by Hezbollah. In a dramatic departure from Berlin’s previous policy, which was based on the European Union’s stance, the new ban does not differentiate between the group’s military and political wings.
Hezbollah activities “violate criminal law and the organization opposes the concept of international understanding,” said German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer.
The group, headed by Hassan Nasrallah, denies Israel’s right to exist and “supports the armed terrorist fight” against the Jewish state, his ministry said in a statement issued Thursday. “It is to be expected that Hezbollah will continue to plot terrorist acts against Israel and Israeli interests also outside the Middle East.”
Early on Thursday morning, German police raided four groups associated with Hezbollah in various locations across the country to ensure that “evidence of potential sub-organizations in Germany could not be destroyed when this ban was announced,” the Interior Ministry said.
Since there is no formal German branch of Hezbollah, Berlin cannot outlaw the organization as such, according to an Interior Ministry statement. Hence the government undertook to ban Hezbollah’s activities, which has the same legal consequences, the statement explained: “It is prohibited to use or display symbols and to organize and participate in assemblies; assets are confiscated and forfeited. Violations of bans on organizations and activities are equally punishable.”
The new policy prohibits the showing of Hezbollah signs and symbols in public, including “in an assembly or in print, audio or visual media, pictures or portrayals.” Even the symbol of the Imam al-Mahdi Scouts, Hezbollah’s youth movement, is banned. The group’s assets will be confiscated.
Israel welcomed Berlin’s new policy. “It is a very important decision and a valuable and significant step in the global fight against terrorism,” Foreign Minister Israel Katz said in a statement released shortly after the German decision was announced. “I would like to express my deepest appreciation to the German government for this step and I am sure that many governments in the Middle East as well as the thousands of victims of Hezbollah’s terror join in thanking them for this decision.”
Katz called on other European countries to follow the German move. “All the parts of Hezbollah, including the social, political and military wings, are terror organizations and they should be treated as such,” he said.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised Germany for the move and also called on other countries to follow suit. “Any country advocating peace needs to expel terror groups and not give them any direct or indirect support,” he said in a statement released by his office.
The designation was also hailed by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who praised the “strong action.”
“The US commends our German ally for banning this Iran-sponsored terrorist group and ensuring its supporters are denied operating space,” Pompeo said in a tweet, urging other European countries to follow suit.
German authorities estimate that 1,050 people living in the country are affiliated with Hezbollah.
Raphael Ahren contributed to this report.