Hezbollah parliamentarians warned Lebanese Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh about the suspension of approximately 100 party-linked bank accounts, which apparently reflected an inclination to renounce “national sovereignty”.
“The policy of blackmail and various type of pressures that US administrations practise against countries and forces that are opposed to their policies will never manage to arm-twist Hezbollah or change its stances against the US tyranny and injustice,” the Loyalty to Resistance bloc declared in a statement. It continued: “The current US administration’s targeting of the resistance and its supporters through the Lebanese banking sector is doomed to fail and will not succeed in achieving its objectives.”
On Wednesday, Salameh revealed on the American CNBC television station that one hundred bank accounts associated with Hezbollah were frozen in accordance with directives issued by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the US Department of Treasury. The Hezbollah International Financing Prevention Act, which threatens to sanction anyone who finances the group, prompted the Central Bank to take these measures to maintain the country’s financial stability.
Rattled by the revelation, the Hezbollah parliamentary bloc voiced its opposition, asserting that “the government and the Central Bank were directly concerned with protecting Lebanon’s sovereignty and its monetary and social stability,” which they concluded were not served by these latest measures.
Further commenting on Salameh’s latest statements, Mohammad Raad said these were “ambiguous and suspicious,” and reflected an “inclination to liberate the financial policy from the restraints of national sovereignty and that’s why we reject them in their entirety”. Moreover, Hezbollah insisted that “everyone must realise that the resistance’s supporters and educational and health institutions are immune to any attempt to target them by anyone,” though it was unclear what measures could be taken to curtail additional restrictions.
On Friday, Saudi daily Al Sharq Al Awsat reported that “bank accounts linked to 3,000 people affiliated with Hezbollah are expected to be frozen in the coming days,” which would create a serious dilemma and, perhaps, upset internal stability. “The accounts that will be closed will include more than three thousand people between employees, partners, customers affiliated with the party,” an unnamed source told the Saudi newspaper, adding that account holders will not be able to open new accounts in any Lebanese bank in any currency.
Hezbollah operates a variety of social, educational, religious and medical centres — in addition to its militia that is currently deployed in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and elsewhere — through direct funding from Iran and donations from sympathisers. Observers believe that most Iranian financial transfers, which are estimated to top the US$400 million mark per year, are in cash and go through Syria, precisely to avoid legitimate banking channels. Individuals and institutions in Lebanon, however, rely on mundane financial bodies to conduct their affairs that will become increasingly more difficult.
Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea warned on Saturday that Hezbollah must change its internal and external policies to push away the danger threatening Lebanon’s economy.
“Hezbollah has to introduce radical change to its internal and external policies to meet the interests of the Lebanese as a whole and not precisely its own audience,” said Geagea in a statement.
Pointing out to the latest Hezbollah campaign against the Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh for abiding by the U.S. sanctions law against the party, Geagea said: “The Governor has no alternative but to implement the international laws. Everyone knows that Lebanon’s banking system is closely linked to the international monetary system.”
Geagea pointed out that “it is illogical for Hezbollah to hold the governorship of the Central Bank responsible for the consequences of its own deeds.”
He asked: “Are the Lebanese obliged to pay the price of Hezbollah ‘s unilateral policies which the Lebanese people have never agreed on?”
Despite Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah’s assurances in December that his party had nothing to fear from new American sanctions targeting the organization because it had “no money in Lebanese banks,” the implementation of the Hezbollah International Financing Prevention Act of 2015 has conspicuously roused the party’s ire since it came into effect on May 3. Lebanon has witnessed a rare standoff between Hezbollah and Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh, whose longstanding ability to juggle safeguarding Lebanon’s international economic legitimacy with maintaining a working relationship with a US-designated “Foreign Terrorist Organization” has been put to the test.
US focuses on Hezbollah terrorist activities worldwide
The U.S. State Department announced that the U.S. administration is still focused on the acts of Hezbollah in all parts of the world, including “its global terrorist activities,” al-Joumhouria newspaper reported on Saturday.
U.S. Assistant Treasury Secretary for Terrorist Financing Daniel Glaser had announced Washington’s intention on the implementation of the penal code against Hezbolla, “in accordance with the preservation of the strength of the Lebanese financial system,” added the daily.
Glaser had noted that the “law does not target any component or Lebanese sect but one group which is Hezbolla and its members and organizations.”
In a testimony he made before a congressional committee, Glaser pointed out that “the party’s leaders tried to minimize the impact of U.S., European and Gulf sanctions in several positions last year, which indicated that our efforts are bearing fruit,” according to the daily.
He pointed out that “Hezbolla receives hundreds of millions of dollars from Iran, as well as millions more from a worldwide network of supporters and companies. Furthermore it uses a network of establishments and brokers for the purpose of buying weapons, equipment and money laundering.”
He said: “Washington has focused on restricting the financing of Hezbolla inside Lebanon through broad cooperation with the Lebanese authorities and banks. At the global level, it targeted dealers and financiers in Europe, Latin America, East Asia and the Middle East, through identifying and punishing the Iranian advocates of Hezbollah and enable law and procedures enforcement.”