Efforts are being made to curb Iran’s influence in the Middle East. U.S. Congress is currently making progress with a sanctions bill that targets Hezbollah – Iran’s Shi’ite militia, which is causing great discomfort to many of Lebanon’s political elite, Al-Monitor reports.
This is a very controversial move, but it is deemed necessary to confront the corruption that is rampant within the group. Legislation was passed last week (Hezbollah International Financing Prevention Amendments Act of 2017) to ensure that there are stricter enforcements with regards to funding streams that keep Hezbollah going. Politicians with links to Hezbollah are also affected.
Michel Aoun became President of Lebanon in October last year. He is a Christian politician and part of the Free Patriotic Movement which has links with the terrorist Hezbollah group. There are members of Hezbollah scattered across the whole Lebanese government.
Hezbollah politicians are not sanctioned under the bill, and Aoun is not mentioned by name, but the U.S. will have to compile and make public a report detailing the net worth of several Hezbollah officials, such as Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah, and anyone who provides the terrorist group with significant financial support.
The reporting does not mean that sanctions will be applied, but there is potential for it to lead to sanctions. The bill also suggests that the president should apply sanctions on institutions that do business with members and affiliates of Hezbollah.
In May, a parliamentary delegation from Lebanon, concerned about the draft bill, went to Washington to discuss the banking sector pointing out that the banking sector is already suffering because of current sanctions. Despite this, the draft pressed ahead, adamant that “Hezbollah’s illicit racketeering activities abroad” need to be curbed. Hezbollah’s support, namely from Iran is also a big motivation behind the bill.
In another jab at Iran, the House bill also amends a 2010 Iran sanctions package to include Iranian support for Hezbollah. The Jerusalem Post reported in September that Iran is giving roughly $800 million a year to Hezbollah, a historic high.
The course in Lebanon is tied to Iran’s increasing influence, which has recently become a concern in Syria and Iraq, too. Preventing deterioration in Lebanon may ultimately be based on Washington’s ability to reverse Iran’s influence.