World must fol­low US Hezbol­lah clam­p­down

▶ The Ira­nian proxy has desta­bilised the re­gion. This can­not be al­lowed to con­tinue

The National - News - - OPINION -

So se­vere is the po­lar­i­sa­tion of mod­ern US pol­i­tics that the Democrats and Repub­li­cans sel­dom agree on any­thing. There­fore, the unan­i­mous pas­sage through Congress of two bills tar­get­ing Hezbol­lah on Fri­day in­di­cates the grav­ity of the threat posed by the Ira­nian proxy. To­gether the Hezbol­lah In­ter­na­tional Fi­nanc­ing Pre­ven­tion Amend­ments Act of 2017 and the STOP Us­ing Hu­man Shields Act take aim at Hezbol­lah and the in­di­vid­u­als and com­pa­nies that spon­sor it. They will curb Hezbol­lah’s abil­ity to desta­bilise the Mid­dle East – from Ye­men to Syria – in ser­vice of Tehran’s re­gional am­bi­tions. The war in Syria has al­ready ex­acted a sig­nif­i­cant loss of life and rev­enue on the group, while US sanc­tions on Iran have hit Hezbol­lah’s chief back­ers. Any mea­sures that fur­ther limit the group’s ac­cess to funds are highly wel­come, be­cause its ac­tiv­i­ties must be iso­lated and cur­tailed – for the sake of re­gional sta­bil­ity.

In May 2013, Nige­rian au­thor­i­ties ar­rested a trio of Hezbol­lah agents who were in pos­ses­sion of enough weaponry to, in the words of a Nige­rian pub­lic prose­cu­tor, “sus­tain a civil war”. It was an in­di­ca­tion, five years ago, of the ter­ri­fy­ing spread of Hezbol­lah’s ac­tiv­i­ties, which now span the Mid­dle East and large ar­eas of North and West Africa. The group emerged with Ira­nian back­ing in Le­banon in the 1980s, with the aim of re­pelling an Is­raeli in­va­sion. To­day, it is firmly en­meshed in Le­banese pol­i­tics, which gives its mil­i­tary en­deav­ours a ve­neer of le­git­i­macy. This is a model that Tehran would like to see ex­ported to Ye­men, Syria, Iraq and fur­ther afield. That can­not be al­lowed to hap­pen.

In or­der to send a stream of fight­ers into Syria and to spon­sor the Houthis in Ye­men with weapons and fi­nanc­ing, Hezbol­lah has re­lied on nar­cotics and weapons traf­fick­ing, which com­pro­mise the sta­bil­ity and sovereignty of other na­tions, not least those in the Gulf. But the in­di­vid­u­als and com­pa­nies on whom the or­gan­i­sa­tion re­lies op­er­ate in a wide range of sec­tors. When Hezbol­lah fi­nancier Kas­sim Ta­jideen was hauled be­fore a US judge last year, it emerged that he over­saw a multi-bil­lion dol­lar su­per­mar­ket, con­struc­tion, prop­erty and di­a­mond em­pire in Gam­bia, Sierra Leone, the Demo­cratic Repub­lic of the Congo and An­gola, fun­nelling rev­enue to Hezbol­lah in the process.

Mean­while in Le­banon, there are con­cerns that Hezbol­lah has long used civil­ians as cover by op­er­at­ing in res­i­den­tial ar­eas. As US Sen­a­tor Ted Cruz, who spon­sored the STOP bill, said late last month: “In just the last few weeks we’ve seen new ev­i­dence that Hezbol­lah is us­ing Le­banese civil­ian in­fra­struc­ture as mil­i­tary de­pots.” The fact that the

US Congress is step­ping up its ac­tion against Hezbol­lah is re­as­sur­ing. The rest of the world should open its eyes and fol­low suit, be­cause, put sim­ply, a wealthy Hezbol­lah makes for a deeply in­se­cure Mid­dle East.

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