Two bills relating to Hizbollah cleared the foreign affairs committee of the US House of Representatives after including amendments targeting Hizbollah’s narcotics trafficking and other illicit activities.
US congress moves closer to slapping sanctions on Hizbollah and anyone who helps them
The US Congress took a major step on Thursday towards imposing sanctions on the Lebanese militant group Hizbollah.
Two bills relating to Hizbollah cleared the foreign affairs committee of the US House of Representatives after including amendments - in particular the parts of the text targeting Hizbollah’s narcotics trafficking and other illicit activities.
Committee chairman Ed Royce Mr Royce said the changes would “strengthen the bill” especially after “alarming reports that Hizbollah and Iran are building illicit missile factories on the doorstep of Israel [in South Lebanon] ...near mosques, homes, hospitals, and schools.”
These were "game-changing facilities" in the region, which could be used against Israel and America's allies, Mr Royce said.
The congressman also alluded to Iran's increased funding of Hizbollah and its vast cash network through cocaine trafficking and other activities, and said the bill would "tighten the screws" on Hizbollah's financial operations globally and also push back against the group's "enablers - the Assad regime and Russia.”
The Hizbollah international financing act of 2017 is a strengthened bill from the 2015 law of the same name and calls for sanctions on any foreign person who “assists, sponsors or provides significant financial, material, or technological support" or is determined by the president to be engaged in fundraising or recruitment activities for Hizbollah.
The law also applies to helping any of a long list of Hizbollah affiliates, including Bayt Al Mal, Jihad Al Bina, the Islamic Resistance Support Association, the Foreign Relations Department of Hizbollah, the External Security Organisation of Hizbollah, Al Manar TV, Al Nour Radio, or the Lebanese Media Group.
The bill also imposes sanctions on foreign states that support Hizbollah, and targets its “narcotics trafficking and significant transnational criminal activities," and grants the US president power to target individuals or entities with the sanctions or to waive them.
The second bill addresses Hizbollah's use of civilians as human shields and permits sanctions to be imposed on foreigners that violate internationally-recognised human rights on civilians used for those, or other purposes.
Both bills cleared the committee on Thursday and will move to a full vote in the House of Representatives and thereafter - if it passes, as is expected - to the Senate.It would then fall to President Donald Trump to sign the legislation into law.
The US Congress has tried to separate its actions against Hizbollah from support and funding that the United States sends to Lebanon, estimated at $70 million in military aid since 2006. Last week, the head of the General Security Directorate in Lebanon, Abbas Ibrahim, was in Washington to discuss security and counterterrorism co-operation.