Nine English Reports & Analysis addressing the USA Sanctions targeted Hizballah’s enablers in Lebanon/تقارير وتعليقات ثمانية تتناول العقوبات الأميركية التي استهدفت وزيرين سابقين من أغطية حزب الله الفاسدين والمفسدين
Text of Treasury Department press release: Treasury targets Hizballah’s enablers in Lebanon نص قرار وزارة الخزانة الأميركية الخاص بفرض عقوبات على علي حسن خليل ويوسف فينيانوس
Treasury Targets Hizballah’s Enablers in Lebanon
September 8, 2020
Washington – Today, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) sanctioned former Lebanese government ministers Yusuf Finyanus and Ali Hassan Khalil, who provided material support to Hizballah and engaged in corruption. These designations underscore how some Lebanese politicians have conspired with Hizballah at the expense of the Lebanese people and institutions. The United States supports the Lebanese people in their calls for a transparent and accountable government free of corruption. The catastrophic explosion at the port of Beirut on August 4, 2020, has amplified these urgent calls, and the U.S government stands firmly in support of the Lebanese people’s demands.
“Corruption has run rampant in Lebanon, and Hizballah has exploited the political system to spread its malign influence,” said Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin. “The United States stands with the people of Lebanon in their calls for reform and will continue to use its authorities to target those who oppress and exploit them.”
These individuals are being designated pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13224, as amended.
The multi-layered crisis in Lebanon stems from decades of corruption and economic mismanagement. Some Lebanese political leaders have used backdoor deals and reliance on Hizballah for personal gain and gains for their political allies ahead of the needs of the Lebanese people. Since October 2019, popular, cross-sectarian protests across the country demanded political and economic reform in Lebanon. The protesters’ calls for “all of them, means all of them” demonstrates the seriousness of their desire for reform and to pull back the curtain on certain groups’ corruption, including Hizballah.
CORRUPT MINISTERS SUPPORT HIZBALLAH AND BENEFIT PERSONALLY
Yusuf Finyanus is the former Minister of Transportation and Public Works (2016-2020). As of mid-2019, Hizballah used its relationship with officials in the Lebanese government, including Finyanus as Minister of Transportation and Public Works, to siphon funds from government budgets to ensure that Hizballah-owned companies won bids for Lebanese government contracts worth millions of dollars. In 2015, Hizballah gave Finyanus hundreds of thousands of dollars in exchange for political favors. Also in 2015, Finyanus met regularly with Wafiq Safa, whom the U.S. Treasury designated in 2019 for his leadership role in Hizballah’s security apparatus. Finyanus also helped Hizballah gain access to sensitive legal documents related to the Special Tribunal for Lebanon and served as a go-between for Hizballah and political allies. In addition to his activities supporting Hizballah, Finyanus engaged in corruption while in his position as Minister of Transportation and Public Works by diverting funds from the ministry to offer perks to bolster his political allies.
Ali Hassan Khalil previously served as the Minister of Finance (2014-2020) and Minister of Public Health (2011-2014). As Minister of Finance, Khalil was one of the officials Hizballah leveraged a relationship with for financial gain. In late 2017, shortly before the Lebanese parliamentary elections that would take place in May 2018, Hizballah leaders, fearing a weakening of their political alliance with the Amal Movement, reached an agreement with Khalil where he was prepared to receive Hizballah support for his political success. Khalil worked to move money in a manner that would avoid U.S. sanctions enforcement from government ministries to Hizballah-associated institutions. Additionally, Khalil used his position as Minister of Finance to attempt to have U.S. financial restrictions on Hizballah eased so that the group would have less difficulty moving money. Khalil also used the power of his office to exempt a Hizballah affiliate from paying most taxes on electronics imported to Lebanon, and a portion of what was paid was collected to support Hizballah. As of late 2019, Khalil as Finance Minister refused to sign checks payable to government suppliers in an effort to solicit kickbacks. He demanded that a percentage of the contracts be paid to him directly.
The Treasury Department continues to prioritize disruption of the full range of Hizballah’s illicit financial activity, and with this action has designated over 90 Hizballah-affiliated individuals and entities since 2017. OFAC took this action pursuant to E.O. 13224, as amended, which targets terrorists and those providing support to terrorists or acts of terrorism. Hizballah was designated by the Department of State as a Foreign Terrorist Organization in October 1997 and as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) pursuant to E.O. 13224 in October 2001.
As a result of today’s action, all property and interests in property of the individuals named above, and of any entities that are owned, directly or indirectly, 50 percent or more by them, individually, or with other blocked persons, that are in the United States or in the possession or control of U.S. persons, are blocked and must be reported to OFAC. Unless authorized by a general or specific license issued by OFAC or otherwise exempt, OFAC’s regulations generally prohibit all transactions by U.S. persons or within (or transiting) the United States that involve any property or interests in property of designated or otherwise blocked persons. The prohibitions include the making of any contribution or provision of funds, goods, or services by, to, or for the benefit of any blocked person or the receipt of any contribution or provision of funds, goods or services from any such person.
Furthermore, engaging in certain transactions with the individuals designated today entails risk of secondary sanctions pursuant to E.O. 13224, as amended, and the Hizballah Financial Sanctions Regulations, which implements the Hizballah International Financing Prevention Act of 2015, as amended by the Hizballah International Financing Prevention Amendments Act of 2018. Pursuant to these authorities, OFAC can prohibit or impose strict conditions on the opening or maintaining in the United States of a correspondent account or a payable-through account by a foreign financial institution that knowingly facilitates a significant transaction for a terrorist group like Hizballah, or a person acting on behalf of or at the direction of, or owned or controlled by, an SDGT such as Hizballah.
OFAC closely coordinated this action with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). DEA’s work with OFAC is part of DEA’s broader effort under its Project Cassandra to target Hizballah’s global criminal support network that operates as a logistics, procurement, and financing arm for Hizballah.
View identifying information on the individuals designated today.
The roadway to reform in Lebanon must tackle the issue of Hezbollah Patricia Karam/The Hill/September 09.2020 باتريشيا كرم: طريق الإصلاح في لبنان يجب أن تعالج ملف حزب الله
Only hours before the second visit from President Emmanuel Macron of France to Lebanon last week, the political elite selected Mustafa Adib as the new prime minister. Adib is an unknown diplomat who is denounced for having little charisma, no track record, and shaky integrity, which is a profile that seems to have become an archetype of the prime minister of Lebanon at a time when the political establishment is under fire.
Adib secured the backing of an overwhelming majority in the parliament, representing Hezbollah and its linked political groups, including the Free Patriotic Movement and the Amal Movement. The nomination of Adib was met with dismay by the civil society and youth activists leading numerous protests to overthrow a kleptocratic ruling class that has been turning the country dry. This same revolution brought down the government last year and turned into a grassroots resistance against the establishment. It even took on Hezbollah, the heavily armed Shia militia backed by Iran which is increasingly viewed as the main obstacle to change in Lebanon.
Is Lebanon going through a familiar mutation to another face of the same entrenched sectarian elite that has ruled Lebanon since the conclusion of its civil war? While tasked to form a new cabinet that can introduce reform measures, the leaders are threatened this time around by sanctions if they do not. But Adib must confront a financial crisis because of such spiraling national debt, a fraying banking sector, and endemic corruption.
Lebanon has hyperinflation, unemployment is at 40 percent, and half the population lives on poverty. Government branches, public administration, political parties, and the security sector are also plagued with bribery and nepotism that are fueled by pervasive clientelism and patronage. There is no will to battle the broad corruption or structures to combat it.
Macron called on the government to focus on policy and credible reform promises from leaders, including a timeline to enact changes. Hezbollah was also left out of the framework. Elections are seen as the solution, but they will not solve the national problems of Lebanon. The current system draws constituencies along sectarian lines, so that citizens are mobilized to vote with these narratives, all but securing victory for sectarian blocks and leaving the political outsiders out. Lebanon needs a law that enables new actors to enter the system and ensure a level playing field.
For any chance of success, a path to reform must realize that Lebanon is captured by a political and military formation with striking power superior to the Lebanese Armed Forces and a chain of command that runs, not to the office of the prime minister, but to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard in Iran. All deployments of Hezbollah are conducted under orders from Tehran. Its political strength eclipses even its military strength. It has secured positions of power in every agency and institution in Lebanon. Its party wing has intertwined itself into the system.
Hezbollah has used violence judiciously in the last few decades to shape the political landscape and suppress opposition. But its mainstay is the psychological operation that saturates the cultural space with messages designed to instill support for a narrative of resistance. This disinformation campaign masks the corruption in which Hezbollah is engaged, ranging from street level shakedowns done by mafias and militias to the clientelism and patronage seen in authoritarian states.
After the explosion in Beirut, the unthinkable happened. Anger against the ruling class turned into outrage and then into condemnation of Hezbollah. In addition to dominating the government, Hezbollah had blocked access for years to the port which it controls. Days after the blast, the verdict of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon implicating a Hezbollah operative in the murder of former prime minister Rafiq Hariri fueled the ire of citizens who are finally waking up to the nefarious role of Hezbollah.
US sanctions former Lebanese ministers for supporting Hezbollah
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If it does not lead to change, the concord envisioned by Macron could be part of a history of failures that has befallen Lebanon in the last decade. It will validate the political establishment that oversaw an economic collapse, a public health crisis, and now a humanitarian catastrophe with lasting implications. Any solution has to focus first on sustaining momentum in the civil society and preventing it from sinking into despair.
But a roadmap to reform must ultimately tackle Hezbollah and its role in Lebanon. The balance of power can only shift with its disarming. When that happens, not only will the satrapy be unveiled, but Lebanon will finally be handed a chance to thrive.
*-Patricia Karam is regional director for the Middle East at the International Republican Institute, a nonprofit organization that promotes democracy.
US, France follow different paths on dealing with Hezbollah The Arab Weekly/September 09/2020 الإسبوع العربي: فرنسا وأميركا تتبعان طرق مختلفة للتعامل مع حزب الله
BEIRUT- As both France and the US push for a new Lebanese cabinet to pursue long-sought reforms, stark differences are emerging in the two countries’ outlook on the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.
Nothing better illustrated these divergent paths than Washington’s decision Tuesday to impose sanctions on two former Lebanese government ministers it accused of providing material and financial help to Hezbollah. It even warned of further measures targeting the Iran-backed Shia group.
US officials said Washington was coordinating with France on Lebanon but voiced criticism over a meeting French President Emmanuel Macron recently held with a prominent figure of Hezbollah, seen as a terrorist organisation by the United States. The US and France’s competing foreign policy visions are playing out vividly as they head separate diplomatic tracks following Beirut’s port explosion last month that led the government to resign.
While France seems willing to compromise with the Iran-backed party, viewing it as a “political reality” to be reckoned with, the US refuses to engage with the group, instead seeking to contain it with wide-ranging sanctions.
According to experts, Washington sees Hezbollah as a Tehran proxy and regional spoiler while Paris focuses on resolving Lebanon’s internal crises and defusing its tensions. France has taken the lead in attempts to influence the course of events in Lebanon, with French President Emmanuel Macron making repeat visits to the stricken Lebanese capital to help negotiate a new government and reform drive.
Macron’s government has been consistent in its demands for urgent reforms and an end to corruption, tying them to the provision of financial aid to Beirut. But the French president has also been relatively flexible in working with Lebanon’s entrenched political elite, including Hezbollah figures often blamed for fueling corruption and destabilising the country by maintaining weapons outside of state control. Lebanese demonstrators have rejected deals they fear would keep Lebanon “a hostage” in the hands of the Shia militias. Macron has also been criticised for coordinating his moves in Lebanon with Hezbollah’s sponsors in Tehran.
During his last visit to Beirut, the French head of state met with lawmakers that included Hezbollah’s parliamentary bloc chief Mohammad Raad, before all sides agreed to form a new government headed by incoming Prime Minister Mustapha Adib. Macron’s unannounced meeting with Raad was first revealed by French journalist Georges Malbrunot in a report in Le Figaro, which called the face-to-face meeting “unprecedented.” A previous report by the same journalist stated that Macron had threatened to impose sanctions on Hezbollah if they did not cooperate with France’s reform efforts.
Macron lashed out at the sensitive news report, personally rebuking Malbrunot, a prominent French reporter who was once held hostage in Iraq, at a public news conference for what he called “serious, unprofessional” and “irresponsible” reporting. The Elysee Palace later followed up with a statement saying Malbrunot should have reached out to the French presidency to react to the information.
The dispute highlighted the sensitivity of Macron’s diplomatic outreach in Lebanon, particularly involving high level Hezbollah figures.
France’s willingness to work with Hezbollah sets it apart from other Western governments, particularly the US, which has labeled the group in its entirety as a “terrorist organisation” and demanded it give up its weapons and be excluded from any future Lebanese government.
Paris distinguishes between Hezbollah’s political and military factions, recognising the former as a legitimate entity.
Analyst Karim Bitar told AFP that France “wants to maintain a channel of dialogue with Hezbollah in order to prevent the destabilisation of Lebanon.”
However, others have argued that France’s unwillingness to blacklist Hezbollah has more to do with its desire to retain unique access to a powerful militant element of its former protectorate.
Last month, the Washington-based Atlantic Council ran an article arguing that France was doing more harm than good by granting Hezbollah legitimacy, pointing to the Shia group’s long history of militia recruitment, terror involvement and money laundering.
“Macron’s belief in France’s special responsibility to Lebanon is evident. If he wants to help the people suffering under Hezbollah there, Macron should follow the German example, and lead a ban of Hezbollah at home,” wrote senior nonresident fellow Jeremy Stern in the article.
Not all French political circles share Macron’s belief that Paris should remain open to Hezbollah either. A group of prominent French figures urged the government on the eve of Macron’s last Lebanese trip to declare Hezbollah a terrorist organisation and to not block European Union efforts to blacklist the militant group. “Without a firm condemnation of Hezbollah, France’s action, in trying to lend support to an old friend in the region, would be futile,” wrote the signatories, who included former Prime Minister Manuel Valls and former Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy.
Senior US officials visiting Lebanon have given similar warnings about the Shia group’s potential participation in future government lineups.
US Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs David Schenker, who was visiting Lebanon last week, said that Hezbollah “cannot be trusted” to follow through with reforms, a Shia figure he met with told AFP. “Hezbollah has been given ample opportunity since 2005 to really involve itself in the state and has not changed its behaviour,” the source reported Schenker as saying.
In addition to fostering unrest within Lebanon, the US accuses Hezbollah of helping carry out Iran’s divisive regional agenda with a vast network of proxy militias, further isolating Lebanon on the international scene.
“As the Lebanese people suffer through a crushing economic crisis, Hezbollah’s exploitation of Lebanon’s financial system, its degradation of Lebanese institutions, and its provocative and dangerous actions threaten the Lebanese people and jeopardise Lebanon’s financial well-being and potential recovery,” US Secretary Mike Pompeo said last month.
But while the US has publicly taken a firm stance against the Shia group’s participation in a future government, analysts say Washington, focused on domestic challenges and an upcoming presidential election, could allow France a margin of manoeuvre as it negotiates with the key players.
At the end of the day, however, Washington has the capacity to lift or impose sanctions, giving it decisive veto power over the course which these manoeuvres will eventually take.
US sanctions ex-Lebanese ministers over Hezbollah ties The Arab Weekly/September 09/2020 أميركا تفرض عقوبات على وزراء سابقين يغطون ويؤيدون حزب الله
WASHINGTON – The United States expanded its sanctions on Lebanon on Tuesday, blacklisting two former government ministers it accused of providing material and financial help to Hezbollah and warning that more actions targeting the Iran-backed Shia group were in the pipeline.
US officials also said Washington was coordinating with France on Lebanon but voiced criticism over a meeting French President Emmanuel Macron held with Lebanese politicians, including a member of Hezbollah, seen as a terrorist organisation by the United States. In a statement, the US Treasury Department said it had designated former Lebanese Transport Minister Yusuf Finyanus and former Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil for engaging in corruption and leveraging their political power for financial gain. “Finyanus and Khalil were involved in directing political and economic favors to Hezbollah and involved in some of the corruption that made Hezbollah’s work possible in Lebanon,” David Schenker, assistant secretary for Near East Affairs at the US State Department told a briefing call.”This should be a message to both to those who cooperate with Hezbollah, those who enable Hezbollah but also to Lebanon’s political leaders,” Schenker said. “Everyone should absolutely expect more designations to come,” he added. Media reports suggested that Washington had initially been looking to designate Gebran Bassil, the influential son-in-law of Lebanese President Michel Aoun and a former foreign minister who heads the largest Christian political bloc in the sectarian power-sharing system. Asked by reporters if Bassil and Riad Salama, a Lebanese central bank governor, were next to be sanctioned by the United States, senior US government officials on a separate briefing call declined to comment.
Fifteen years after the assassination of Lebanon’s Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, heavily armed group Hezbollah has risen to become the overarching power in a country that is now collapsing under a series of devastating crises. Lebanon’s banks are paralysed, its currency has crashed and sectarian tensions are rising. On top of that, a huge port blast last month smashed a large swath of Beirut, killing more than 190 people and causing damage estimated at up to $4.6 billion. Macron, whose pressure prompted Lebanon’s bickering leaders to agree on a new prime minister, has spearheaded international efforts to set Lebanon on a new course after decades of corrupt rule led to its deepest crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war. While France, Lebanon’s former colonial power, is at the forefront of diplomacy, Iran through its support for Hezbollah also has influence. The United States is also a major donor to Lebanon, including to the Lebanese army.
Pompeo Comments on U.S. Sanctions on Khalil, Fenianos Associated Press/Naharnet/September 09/2020 بومبيو يعلق على العقوبات على فينيانوس وخليل
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo commented on the US administration’s decision to impose sanctions on former Lebanese ministers Youssef Fenianos and Ali Hassan Khalil. “We stand with the Lebanese people’s call for reform and will promote accountability for anyone facilitating Hizbullah’s terrorist agenda. Today the U.S. is designating two corrupt former Lebanese ministers who abused their positions to provide material support to Hizbullah,” said Pompeo in tweet on Wednesday. The United States on Tuesday slapped sanctions on the two ministers for alleged corruption and support of Hizbullah in a rare move against politicians close to the Iran-backed group. The sanctioned officials are former finance minister Ali Hassan Khalil and former public works and transportation minister Youssef Fenianos. Khalil is currently a member of the Lebanese Parliament. The sanctions appear to be a strong message to politicians in the country, which is experiencing its worst economic and financial crisis in decades. It is also a strong warning to Hizullah and its allies who control majority seats in Parliament that the sanctions could target more politicians. Khalil is a senior official with the Shiite Amal group that is headed by Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri while Fenianos is a member of the Christian Marada group that is allied with Hizbullah and the Syrian government. The U.S. Treasury said Khalil and Fenianos “provided material support to Hizbullah and engaged in corruption.” U.S. officials have been warning that a new wave of sanctions will target allies of Hizbullah, which is considered a terrorist organization by Washington. Hizbullah used its relationship with officials in the Lebanese government, including Fenianos as minister, to siphon funds from government budgets to ensure that Hizbullah-owned companies won bids for Lebanese government contracts worth millions of dollars, the U.S. Treasury said. It added that Finianos also helped Hizbullah gain access to sensitive legal documents related to the Special Tribunal for Lebanon and served as a go-between for Hizbullah and political allies. The Special Tribunal for Lebanon last month convicted a Hizbullah member in the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. It added that Khalil used his position as finance minister to attempt to have U.S. financial restrictions on Hizbullah eased so that the group would have less difficulty moving money. The Treasury said the designations underscore how some Lebanese politicians have conspired with Hizbullah at the expense of the Lebanese people and institutions. The U.S. supports the Lebanese people in their calls for a transparent and accountable government free of corruption, it added.
Schenker Reports Progress on Israel-Lebanon Border Talks Agence France Presse/Naharnet/September 09/2020
A US envoy Tuesday said that he hoped to sign a framework agreement in the coming weeks for Lebanon and Israel to start discussing their disputed maritime border. Lebanon in 2018 signed its first contract to drill for oil and gas in its waters, including a block disputed by its southern neighbour Israel, with which it has fought several wars. The Israeli government in May 2019 said it had agreed to enter US-mediated talks with Lebanon to resolve the maritime border dispute. “I believe that we are making some incremental progress,” US Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs David Schenker said.
“I’m looking forward to finishing up with this framework agreement so you and the Israelis can… move on to actually negotiating about your borders,” he told Lebanese journalists during a telephone conference. “I hope to be able to come over to Lebanon and sign this agreement in the coming weeks,” he added. “This will open the opportunity for both Lebanon and Israel to start to actually make some real progress.” He refused to comment on obstacles towards reaching the deal, but said more than a year of US shuttling back and forth between both countries just to reach a preliminary understanding was “an unfortunate waste of time”. In early August, Lebanon’s parliament speaker Nabih Berri told Lebanese newspaper Annahar that discussions with Washington over drawing the maritime border with Israel were “at their conclusion”. Lebanon and Israel are still technically at war. The issue of the shared maritime border is sensitive, mainly because of a dispute over coastal drilling rights. In February 2018, Lebanon signed its first contract for offshore drilling in two blocks in the Mediterranean for oil and gas with a consortium comprising energy giants Total, ENI and Novatek.
Lebanon in April said initial drilling in Block 4 had shown traces of gas but no commercially viable reserves. Exploration of Block 9 has not started and is much more controversial as Israel also claims ownership over part of it.
Hizbullah Condemns U.S. Sanctions, Aoun Asks Foreign Ministry to Inquire Agence France Presse/Naharnet/September 09/2020
Hizbullah on Wednesday condemned new U.S. sanctions against two former ministers from allied political parties over alleged corruption and aid to the group.
“We view this unjust decision as a badge of honor for our two dear friends,” Hizbullah said in a statement. Hizbullah has long been targeted by U.S. sanctions and blacklisted as a “terrorist” organization, but the Iran-backed Shiite group is also a powerful political player with seats in Lebanon’s parliament.
Washington Tuesday imposed sanctions on former finance minister Ali Hassan Khalil and ex-transport minister Youssef Fenianos. “Everything that is issued by this administration is condemned and rejected,” Hizbullah said of U.S. President Donald Trump’s government. Washington “will not be able to implement its goals in Lebanon,” it said. President Michel Aoun, whose party is allied with Hizbullah, directed the foreign ministry to contact the U.S. embassy in Beirut and Lebanese embassy in Washington to inquire about the circumstances that led to the sanctions, the presidency said in a statement. The U.S. Treasury Department said that Khalil, who has also served as health minister, helped direct funds to Hizbullah institutions to evade U.S. sanctions against the group. Fenianos, it alleged, received “hundreds of thousands of dollars” from Hizbullah in return for political favors. The Treasury Department also said he provided sensitive documents to the group on the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, which last month found a member of Hizbullah guilty over the 2005 murder of former prime minister Rafik Hariri. Khalil hails from the AMAL Movement of Nabih Berri, the powerful speaker of parliament, while Fenianos is a member of the Christian Marada Movement. Hizbullah spearheaded military operations against Israel’s occupation of southern Lebanon after the civil war but local and foreign rivals criticize the party for having retained its arsenal of arms despite Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000. Israel occupied much of southern Lebanon between 1978 and 2000 and its invading army reached the capital in 1982. It also fought a devastating 2006 war with Hizbullah in which more than 1,200 people, mostly civilians, were killed in Lebanon.
AMAL Defends Khalil Following U.S. Sanctions Naharnet/September 09/2020
AMAL Movement that is headed by Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri held an urgent meeting on Wednesday on the heels of the US sanctions slapped against its senior official and former finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil. The party defended the minister and issued the following statement:
First, the (US) decision will not at all change our convictions and our national constants. Second, we will not compromise or relinquish our borders and sovereign rights in sea and land regardless of the sanctions and pressure from whichever side they come. Revealing a truth, the agreement with the US on demarcating the maritime borders in southern Lebanon was completed and approved on 9/7/2020, but the US so far rejects the announcement without any justification. Third, the “decree” of the US Treasury Department, came at a time when the majority of Lebanese political and parliamentary forces stand close to reaching a comprehensive government that can steer Lebanon out of its crises. Fourth, targeting brother MP Ali Hassan Khalil does not only target a person who has occupied a ministerial position for a specific period of time, but rather targets Lebanon’s sovereignty and the political organization it belongs to, targets the course of AMAL Movement and the course of defense for Lebanon and its unity as a final homeland for all its citizens, and targets our right to defend our principles, our rights and our borders. You are mistaken about the time and place but the message has been delivered.
The United States on Tuesday slapped sanctions on two former Lebanese ministers for alleged corruption and support of Hizbullah, vowing to isolate the Iran-backed Shiite armed group and political party. The Treasury Department targeted Khalil and former transport minister Youssef Fenianos, a member of the Christian Marada Movement that is allied with Hizbullah and the Syrian government. The U.S. Treasury said Khalil and Fenianos “provided material support to Hizbullah and engaged in corruption.”
Franjieh Says ‘Political’ U.S. Sanctions Won’t Change Marada Position Associated Press/Naharnet/September 09/2020
Marada Movement chief Suleiman Franjieh on Wednesday described the U.S. sanctions imposed Tuesday on Marada’s ex-minister Youssef Fenianos as a “political decision.”The sanctions will only push Marada to cling to its “path and political alignment,” Franjieh said in a short statement.
He added: “We never were or will be shy about our position, which we are openly proud of.” The U.S. Treasury charged Tuesday that, as a minister, Fenianos had received “hundreds of thousands of dollars” from Hizbullah in return for political favors. It said he also provided sensitive documents to Hizbullah on the Special Tribunal for Lebanon. The sanctions marked the first time that allies of Hizbullah have been targeted by sanctions. Some analysts in Lebanon saw the sanctions as a message to Hizbullah’s allies to review their links with the Iran-backed group, especially by targeting a Christian ally for the first time.
“Fenianos and Ali Hassan Khalil are two central figures in the coalition that is led by Hizbullah,” said Ali Hamadeh, a political writer at Annahar newspaper who is often critical of Hizbullah. He added that by sanctioning Fenianos, the U.S. is sending a message to Franjieh, who is a presidential hopeful. Hamadeh said Hizbullah’s non-Shiite allies will now have to “think seriously about the repercussions of their relations with Hizbullah.” He said at a later stage, the sanctions might target members of President Michel Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement, which has been Hizbullah’s strongest Christian ally since 2006.