Obama security adviser speaks in Dublin


US PRESIDENT Barack Obama’s chief adviser on homeland security has criticised the Government, along with the EU, for failing to declare Hizbullah a terrorist organisation.

Speaking in Dublin yesterday, John Brennan praised Ireland’s record on security co-operation, including its support for nation-building in Afghanistan, its facilitating of US troops at Shannon, and its promotion of enhanced aviation screening.

However, he complained of a lack of unity in Europe on tackling Hizbullah, the Islamic militant group which is part of Lebanon’s powersharing government and has strong links with the regimes in Iran and Syria. The UK and the Netherlands had moved towards backing the US stance but “this is simply not enough”, he said.

The group would continue to “act with impunity” unless the international community joined the US in not only recognising Hizbullah’s “criminal and terrorist activities” but in “condemning and disrupting those activities”, he said.

“In Europe, many countries, including Ireland, have not yet designated Hizbullah as a terrorist organisation, nor has the European Union” and this “makes it harder to defend our countries and protect our citizens”.

Failure to take action at European level has prevented the prosecution of certain suspects on terrorism charges, he noted.

In a statement last night, the Department of Foreign Affairs said: “As there is no common EU position and considerable division regarding the appropriateness of such action [ie declaring Hizbullah a terrorist organisation], we would need to consider carefully the implications of such a position.”

Mr Brennan, a 25-year CIA veteran whose father was a native of Co Roscommon, was delivering a talk hosted by the Institute of International and European Affairs. While in Dublin, he also met officials from the Departments of Justice and Foreign Affairs, as well as the Garda and the Defence Forces.

Addressing a number of shared security concerns between the EU and the US, Mr Brennan also called for a common EU stance on kidnappings by groups linked to al-Qaeda in Africa and the Middle East.

“Ransom payments, many of which come from Europe, are not part of the solution; they are part of the problem,” he said.

Since 2004, terrorist groups linked to al-Qaeda reaped $120 million in such payments.

In a related threat, $140 million in ransom payments were paid to Somali pirates in the Gulf of Aden in 2011 alone.

The latter was being tackled by an international effort that included the EU, with support from Ireland and Nato.

The introduction of new fortifications on ships and improvements in the sharing of information had led to a drop in hijackings in the gulf from 25 last year to five this year, although 200 hostages remained in Somalia.