U.S. lawmakers are pushing for new legislation that will impose further economic sanctions on Hezbollah and its Al-Manar television station as they seek to cripple the party’s sources of funding.
The House Committee on Foreign Affairs drafted on April 3 a law that would toughen economic sanctions against Hezbollah, a party that lawmakers said continued to “pose a threat to the United States, our allies and interests throughout the Middle East, and well beyond.”
“The Hezbollah International Financial Prevention Act takes a comprehensive approach to addressing the threat posed by Hezbollah by imposing severe new sanctions on Hezbollah’s fundraising channels and restricting its ability to use its funds to support global terrorist activities,” a statement by the committee said.
The purpose of the act is to deal a blow to the Lebanese group’s finances, thereby reducing its capacity to “sow instability in the Middle East and cut off a major source of terrorist support.”
“The United States must deal with Hezbollah firmly and decisively with unyielding resolve by crippling its extensive, illegal financial network. Hezbollah’s days of unhindered criminal operations and terrorist activity are numbered,” the statement quoted Rep. Mark Meadows as saying.
The bill will be introduced by Reps. Meadows, a Republican, and Brad Schneider, a Democrat, both members of the committee’s panel on the Middle East. Committee chairman Ed Royce, a Republican, and Eliot Engel, a Democrat and ranking member, will also endorse it.
Schneider accused Hezbollah of money laundering and helping to fund terrorist activities, saying the law would give Washington more ways to crack down on its activities.
News and analysis website Al-Monitor said Sunday it had obtained a copy of the bill that provided the U.S. administration with the necessary tools to pursue foreign financial institutions, including central banks, that knowingly engage in business with Hezbollah and its enablers.
A provision in the bill also allows the U.S. to list satellite providers that still carry Hezbollah’s television station and “require that the administration explain why those providers have not been penalized for providing material support to Hezbollah’s Al-Manar though the facilitation of its broadcasts,” according to the news website.
Other provisions include designating Hezbollah as a narcotics trafficking organization and as a transnational criminal organization in light of the party’s reported involvement in drug trafficking and money laundering networks.
Royce said Hezbollah was responsible for more American deaths than any other terrorist organization prior to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
“Since that time their capabilities have grown, enabling them to attack the U.S. and our allies around the world – from the Philippines, to Bulgaria, and in even on our doorstep in South America. We cannot afford to ignore this threat. This vital legislation empowers the administration to strike at Hezbollah’s fundraising and international financing,” Royce said, according to the statement.
“The threat of Hezbollah has grown substantially as the region becomes more unstable,” Engel said.
“Hezbollah’s actions in Syria – directed by their patrons in Iran – have helped keep the [Syrian President Bashar] Assad regime in power. They must be held responsible for their destructive actions in Syria and the threat that they continue to pose to our ally, Israel,” he said, adding that the act would “break any lifeline to Hezbollah.”
The U.S. announced last August that it was sanctioning Hezbollah over its support for the Syrian regime, a largely symbolic move as the group has been subject to financial restrictions since it was classed as a terrorist group in 1995. In September, the U.S. imposed further financial sanctions against Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah for giving assistance to Assad.
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