U.S. lawmakers and officials from across the political spectrum are emphasizing their support for Bulgaria and are calling on the European Union to blacklist Hezbollah a day after Sofia announced that Bulgarian investigators had discovered links between the Iran-backed organization and a July 2012 bombing in Burgas, Bulgaria that killed five Israelis and a Bulgarian.
Washington reporters noted both the depth and the breadth of American support for Bulgaria in the aftermath of a press conference yesterday, during which Bulgarian officials outlined their findings. Coverage also reflected a broad, bipartisan consensus that the E.U. must take steps to designate Hezbollah.
The White House called on Europe “to take proactive action to uncover [Hezbollah’s] infrastructure and disrupt the group’s financing schemes and operational networks.” The statement, by Deputy National Security Advisor John Brennan, “commend[ed] the Government of Bulgaria for its professional and comprehensive investigation” and cited the results of Sofia’s “thorough review of the evidence.” The stance was echoed by the State Department, which in a briefing expressed the U.S. government’s “hope and expectation” that the E.U. will be galvanized by the “extremely professional investigation done by the Government of Bulgaria” to blacklist Hezbollah.
The administration also pledged to “continue to provide the Bulgarian Government assistance in bringing the perpetrators,” and concluded with a note that the “United States is proud to stand with its friend and NATO ally Bulgaria.”
Meanwhile Rep. Ed Royce (R-Ca.), the chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, called on the E.U. to blacklist Hezbollah now that it had been found responsible for “an attack on a European Union member nation,” noting that continued resistance to the designation by some E.U. countries was “incomprehensible.” His statement was echoed by another from Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), the top Democrat on the committee, which emphasized that the time had come for the EU “to designate Hezbollah as a terrorist organization and punish [those] murderers.”
Bulgaria is a NATO partner of the United States, and the two countries share close military and economic ties. U.S. government counter-terrorism experts have suggested that Bulgaria became a target for terrorists in part because it sent soldiers to support U.S.-led missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.