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Congress Moving Ahead with Legislation Targeting Hezbollah Finances

Bipartisan legislation targeting Hezbollah and its enablers continued this week to wind its way through the Senate, with Al Monitor describing the Hezbollah International Financing Prevention Act of 2014 – introduced by Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) – as part of an effort by U.S. lawmakers to “snuff out the Shiite militia.” The bill had been preceded by parallel legislation in the House, and final language is expected to press for “sanctions against financial institutions… that knowingly facilitate Hezbollah’s illicit activities, including money laundering, and targets providers that knowingly transmit the militia’s propaganda channel, Al-Manar.” Sheehan’s office put out a statement quoting the Senator:

“Hezbollah is one of the world’s most dangerous terrorist organizations and we must block the group’s access to financial and logistic support,” Senator Shaheen said. “In addition to being responsible for the murder of hundreds of American citizens, Hezbollah continues to sponsor terrorism across the globe and destabilize the Middle East, particularly through its support to President Bashar al-Assad’s brutal regime in Syria. This legislation makes clear that Hezbollah’s supporters and enablers will face consequences.”

The Senate developments were picked up on Thursday by Lebanon’s NOW, which extensively described the bill’s various details and implied it was a response to moves by Hezbollah over the years to develop “a worldwide network of charities and businesses whose profits go directly into the party’s pocket.” NOW also assessed more specifically that “the draft… might be bad news for the Central Bank in Lebanon.”

The news seems set to reverberate domestically in Lebanon, where the Iran-backed terror group has come under increasing criticism for prioritizing its own and more so Iran’s interests to the detriment of relatively straightforward Lebanese interests. Hezbollah had for literally decades sought to brand itself as an indigenous Lebanese organization protecting Lebanese sovereignty. Critics of the group had ridiculed the notion, arguing instead that Hezbollah was a key force in destabilizing Lebanese institutions. Foundation for Defense of Democracies fellow Tony Badran had once branded the claim a “nifty conceit,” in no small part precisely because Hezbollah’s illicit financial activities exposed Lebanon’s banking sector to potential Western sanctions.

[Photo: Gage Skidmore / Flickr]