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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 22 November 2018

Donald Trump signs Hezbollah financial sanctions into US law

The US President announced the new law following an event commemorating victims of the 1983 Marines Barracks bombing in Lebanon

The president talked about the 1983 Marine Barracks in Beirut when announcing the sanctions. AP
The president talked about the 1983 Marine Barracks in Beirut when announcing the sanctions. AP

After its unanimous passage in the House and Senate, US President Donald Trump signed into law the Hezbollah International Financing Prevention Amendments Act (HIFPAA) on Thursday, putting into effect a new set of sanctions that targets the Lebanese militant group and its financial support network.

Following an event to commemorate the 35th anniversary of Marines Barracks bombing in 1983 in Beirut, Lebanon, the US President signed the legislation into law.

“Thirty-five years ago, 241 American service members were murdered in the terrorist attack on our Marine Barracks in Beirut, Lebanon,” Mr Trump said in a gathering with survivors and the families of the victims at the White House.

In a statement, the White House accused Hezbollah of kidnapping, torturing, and murdering American citizens, “including in its brutal attack in 1983 on our Marine Barracks in Beirut, Lebanon, which killed 241 American Marines, Sailors, and Soldiers, wounded 128 other American service members.” It described the Lebanese armed group as “a radical Islamist terrorist organisation and close partner and proxy of the Iranian regime.”

HIFPAA, the White House said, “will further isolate Hezbollah from the international financial system and reduce its funding” and “target foreign persons and government agencies that knowingly assist or support” the group.

The HIFPAA legislation could complicate funding channels for Hezbollah by going after foreign individuals and companies that voluntarily provide financial, material or technological support to the and its affiliates. It targets Hezbollah-controlled social and financial organisations such as Bayt al Mal, the Islamic Resistance Support Association, Jihad al Binaa, the Foreign Relations Department of Hezballah, Al Manar TV, Al Nour Radio, and the Lebanese Media Group with sanctions.

The bill also requires the president to report to Congress on Hezbollah’s transnational activity, including any money laundering and narcotics activities across Latin America, the African continent or Asia and Europe. The bill does not exclude state sponsors of the Lebanese party whether in Lebanon or outside from its reach.

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This pressure may complicate matters for the party inside Lebanon, argued Randa Slim, a director of the track II dialogues programme at the Middle East Institute. Ms Slim, who has extensively studied Hezbollah, told The National that the new law “weakens Hezbollah’s financial situation which has already been weakened by four factors.”

These include the costs of Hezbollah’s intervention in Syria; US sanctions on Iran which are cutting into Hezbollah’s money supply from Tehran; fears among Hezbollah’s Lebanese Shia financiers after the arrest and extradition to US of Kassim Tajeddine, a major Hezbollah financier who was arrested in Morocco last year, and worsening economic conditions in Lebanon which put more strains on the group's core constituency.

Asked if the sanctions would affect Hezbollah’s share in the future Lebanese government, Ms Slim did not expect major changes on that front. “This has already been factored into their calculus” she said. The US has voiced its opposition to Lebanese officials to Hezbollah taking key ministries with high revenues such as health or public works in any future government.