Banks get pressed on Beirut by activists


Major Wall Street and European financial firms are coming under pressure to dump their holdings in Lebanese debt and securities from activists who charge that Iran, Syria and the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah are using Beirut’s banking system to launder money and evade international sanctions.

The campaign—which is being led by New York-based United Against Nuclear Iran, or UANI—could threaten Beirut’s financial sector, traditionally among the Middle East’s most important and vibrant.

Lebanon’s banking sector historically accounts for around 35% of the country’s total economic output. The U.S. Treasury also has intensified its scrutiny of Lebanon’s banks in recent months.

The Iranian and Syrian backed Hezbollah currently dominates the government of PM Nagib Mikati.

The Lebanese economy has suffered greatly as a result of the pro- democracy uprising in Syria. Several Gulf currencies issued travel advisories warning their citizens against travel to Lebanon.