Obama to sign tough new sanctions against Lebanon's Hizballah

Obama to sign tough new sanctions against Lebanon's Hizballah
The US Congress has voted unanimously in favour of extensive sanctions targeting the financial and media arms of Lebanon's Shia paramilitary group Hizballah, on the back of its "terrorist" activities.
3 min read
17 December, 2015
Hizballah, outraged by US sanctions, said the move was meant to punish its "resistance" [Anadolu]

The US House of Representatives voted unanimously on Wednesday to impose tough new sanctions on banks that knowingly do business with the Lebanon-based movement Hizballah.

The bill targeting the Iran-backed Hizballah, which is considered a terrorist organisation by Washington, passed the Senate last month.

It now goes to the White House for President Barack Obama's signature.

Hizballah had denounced the previous bill passed by the US Senate to target the party's financing and main media organisations, describing the decision as a "crime" against the world's freedom fighters.

Hizballah said that the bill was another way for the US to try and exert control in the world, "disregarding international laws that should be practiced between global nations and organisations".

"Hizballah is a resistance movement fighting the terrorism that America supports, whether Zionist terrorism which targets the Palestinians, or takfiri terrorism which has spread in many nations with American and Zionist support," the statement added, in reference to Hizballah's fight against the Islamic State group in Syria.

The US has issued several rounds of sanctions against Hezbollah in the past, for reasons such as its military actions against Israel or its involvement in the Syrian war.

Individuals in the US have also been jailed for allegedly aiding Hizballah financially or providing satellite television services to Al-Manar, its TV station.

In July this year, the US government imposed sanctions on three Hizballah leaders, and a businessman in Lebanon, saying they were key players in the group's military operations in Syria.

The legislation also targets Hizballah's television channel Al-Manar by aiming to cut the broadcast of satellite operators that air the channel's programming.

Last week, Saudi Arabia reportedly pressured pan-Arab satellite operator Arabsat to take Al-Manar off the air. This followed Saudi sanctions on several Hizballah-linked figures and institutions.

'Obama will sign'

The US president will endorse the legislation, according to a senior administration official.

The new rules direct the president to prescribe punishing regulations against financial institutions that conduct transactions with Hizballah or otherwise process or launder funds for the organisation.

It also requires the administration to present to Congress a series of reports highlighting the group's alleged narcotics trafficking, transnational crime and operations of international groups linked to Hizballah.

"Hizballah has had to cast a wide net because most Lebanese banks have not wanted to do business with them," a congressional expert on the legislation told AFP.

IS oil smuggling network targeted

The US is also targeting the entire oil supply chain used by the Islamic State group as well as the militant group's other financial platforms to choke its revenue flow.

"We will be continuing to do this work... intensifying in the weeks to come," Adam Szubin, the US Treasury's acting undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said at a daily briefing at the White House.

Szubin also said he expected the UN Security Council to adopt a related sanctions resolution against IS calling on all countries to "fully criminalise" the financing of terrorism. The resolution targeting IS will be incorporated into existing sanctions targeting al-Qaeda.

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Read more about IS's oil smuggling operations here