The Israel Project hosted a lunch briefing with prominent diplomats to provide an update on the turmoil in the Middle East and, more specifically, the status of European Union moves to formally designate Hezbollah as a terrorist organization.
Margarita Assenova, Director of Programs, Balkans, Caucasus & Central Asia at The Jamestown Foundation and Matthew Levitt, author of Why Europe Should Ban Hezbollah, discussed how Hezbollah has been formally linked to two different terror plots on European Union soil in recent months.
Bulgarian authorities recently announced that they had discovered links between the July 2012 Burgas, Bulgaria bus bombing – in which five Israeli tourists and a Bulgarian were killed – and Hezbollah. And a Cyprus court recently convicted a confessed Hezbollah member of five terror-related charges. He had been captured mere days before the Bulgaria bombing monitoring Israeli tourists in Cyprus. Several E.U. countries – including France and Germany – have in the past expressed reservations about designating Hezbollah, but have recently expressed openness to at least designating the group’s “military wing.”
About The Speaker
Margarita Assenova is a professional journalist and political analyst with more than 25 years of experience in print and broadcast media, including at Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty. Assenova, who is from Bulgaria, worked as a print and broadcast journalist in her home country since 1987. In 1997 she was awarded the John Knight Professional Journalism Fellowship at Stanford University for her reporting on nationalism and minorities in the Balkans. Assenova has worked on democracy projects in Central-Eastern Europe and Central Asia for the International Republican Institute, Freedom House, and the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars in Washington, D.C. She currently serves as the Course Chair for Bulgaria/Southeast Central Europe Advanced Area Studies at the Foreign Service Institute of the U.S. Department of State. Assenova has authored book chapters on security, energy, and democracy published by CSIS Press, Brassey’s, Freedom House, and Bertelsmann Foundation Publishers. She is fluent in Russian, Bulgarian, English and Macedonian.
Matthew Levitt is a senior fellow and director of The Washington Institute's Stein Program on Counterterrorism and Intelligence and author of Hizballah and the Qods Force in Iran's Shadow War with the West. From 2005 to early 2007, he served as deputy assistant secretary for intelligence and analysis at the U.S. Department of the Treasury. In that capacity, he served both as a senior official within the department's terrorism and financial intelligence branch and as deputy chief of the Office of Intelligence and Analysis, one of sixteen U.S. intelligence agencies coordinated under the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. During his tenure at Treasury, Dr. Levitt played a central role in efforts to protect the U.S. financial system from abuse and to deny terrorists, weapons proliferators, and other rogue actors the ability to finance threats to U.S. national security. In 2008-2009, he served as a State Department counterterrorism advisor to the special envoy for Middle East regional security (SEMERS), General James L. Jones. From 2001 to 2005, Dr. Levitt served the Institute as founding director of its Terrorism Research Program (now renamed as above), which was established in the wake of the September 11 attacks. Previously, he served as a counterterrorism intelligence analyst at the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), where he provided tactical and strategic analytical support for counterterrorism operations, focusing on fundraising and logistical support networks for Middle Eastern terrorist groups. During his FBI service, Dr. Levitt participated as a team member in a number of crisis situations, including the terrorist threat surrounding the turn of the millennium and the September 11 attacks. He has earned numerous awards and commendations for his government service at both the FBI and the Treasury Department. Dr. Levitt holds a bachelor's degree in political science from Yeshiva University, as well as a master's degree in law and diplomacy and a doctorate from Tufts University's Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. He was a graduate research fellow at Harvard Law School's Program on Negotiation, and has taught at both Johns Hopkins University's Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies and Zanvyl Krieger School of Arts and Sciences.