US Repub­li­cans and Democrats unite to fight Hezbol­lah

The National - News - - FRONT PAGE - JOYCE KARAM

The US Se­nate cleared two ma­jor bills sanc­tion­ing the Le­banese mil­i­tant group Hezbol­lah, pass­ing both unan­i­mously with bi­par­ti­san sup­port.

Leg­is­la­tors sent the Hezbol­lah In­ter­na­tional Fi­nanc­ing Pre­ven­tion Amend­ments Act of 2017 to Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, who is ex­pected to sign in it into law in the com­ing days.

That bill and the “Stop Us­ing Hu­man Shields Act” clear the way for sanc­tions against the Ira­nian-funded group.

The US will use the first bill to pur­sue for­eign peo­ple and com­pa­nies that vol­un­tar­ily pro­vide fi­nan­cial, ma­te­rial or tech­no­log­i­cal sup­port to Hezbol­lah and its af­fil­i­ates.

It will ap­ply sanc­tions on Hezbol­lah-con­trolled so­cial and fi­nan­cial or­gan­i­sa­tions such as Bayt Al Mal, the Is­lamic Re­sis­tance Sup­port As­so­ci­a­tion, Ji­had Al Bi­naa, the For­eign Re­la­tions Depart­ment of Hezbol­lah, Al Ma­nar TV, Al Nour Ra­dio and the Le­banese Me­dia Group.

The bill also re­quires the pres­i­dent to re­port to Congress on Hezbol­lah’s transna­tional ac­tiv­ity, in­clud­ing any money laun­der­ing and nar­cotics ac­tiv­ity across Latin Amer­ica, the African con­ti­nent or Asia and Europe.

It also al­lows the US to go af­ter state spon­sors of the Le­banese party.

The hu­man shields pre­ven­tion act will im­pose sanc­tions on groups such as Hezbol­lah, Ha­mas and Al Qaeda, which Wash­ing­ton ac­cuses of us­ing civil­ians as hu­man shields in con­flict.

The bill elim­i­nated a re­quire­ment for the pres­i­dent to go to the UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil and en­act a hu­man shields res­o­lu­tion.

It will now go to the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives for an­other vote be­fore be­ing re­ferred to Mr Trump.

Tyler Sta­ple­ton, a deputy di­rec­tor at the Foun­da­tion for the De­fence of Democ­ra­cies, told The Na­tional that unan­i­mous sup­port for the bills across shows where Congress stands on Hezbol­lah.

“It means that ev­ery sen­a­tor

thinks tar­get­ing Hezbol­lah’s fi­nance is a good pol­icy ob­jec­tive and that sanc­tion­ing coun­tries that do busi­ness with Hezbol­lah is worth pur­su­ing,” Mr Sta­ple­ton said.

He said that – par­tic­u­larly with the fi­nanc­ing amend­ment act – “sanc­tions could also be im­posed on the gov­ern­ments of Syria and Le­banon” if they were found to be help­ing and co-or­di­nat­ing fund­ing for Hezbol­lah.

This pres­sure may com­pli­cate mat­ters for the group in­side Le­banon, said Randa Slim, di­rec­tor of the Track II Di­a­logues Pro­gramme at the Mid­dle East In­sti­tute think tank.

Ms Slim, who has stud­ied Hezbol­lah ex­ten­sively, told

The Na­tional that the bills “fur­ther com­pli­cate Hezbol­lah’s fi­nan­cial sit­u­a­tion, which has al­ready been weak­ened by four fac­tors”.

These in­cluded the costs of Hezbol­lah’s in­ter­ven­tion in Syria and US sanc­tions on Iran, which are cut­ting into Hezbol­lah’s money sup­ply from Tehran.

Then there were fears among Hezbol­lah’s Le­banese fi­nanciers af­ter the ar­rest and ex­tra­di­tion to the US of Kas­sim Ta­jed­dine, a ma­jor Hezbol­lah backer ar­rested in Morocco last year.

Le­banon’s wors­en­ing eco­nomic con­di­tions also put more strain on the group’s core con­stituency.

Asked if the sanc­tions would af­fect Hezbol­lah’s stake in the fu­ture Le­banese govern­ment, Ms Slim did not ex­pect ma­jor changes. “This has al­ready been fac­tored into their cal­cu­lus,” she said.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UAE

© PressReader. All rights reserved.