The issue of the financial sanctions that might be imposed by the US administration on Hezbollah, that will also include their allies Amal movement and the FPM along with President Michel Aoun and Speaker Nabih Berri, is still reverberating in Lebanon in term of examining their applicability and impact on the Lebanese economy.
While one of the tasks of the Lebanese delegations was to soften the US position, it did not receive the same flexibility offered by previous congresses. Therefore, it is difficult to know if this time Lebanon will evade this crisis at a time when things are different and more difficult, especially when the American positions seem to be heading towards further escalation against the banking sector in particular. That is because of the leniency several banks have provided to Hezbollah.
Faced with this dilemma, Journalist Imad Marmal was optimistic. When asked whether the delegation was successful in holding back the tight US sanctions on Hezbollah, he replied that it was able to at least on the short run.
Marmal stated that it is now difficult for congress to introduce strong amendments to the 2015 decree of sanctions against Hezbollah. In addition, promoting a new bill now would be difficult as the congress will enter a break until next September. It is also worth mentioning that there are thousands of proposed yearly, only two hundred of which are passed, so it is difficult to presume that the sanctions law would be one of them. Marmal pointed out the amendments to the bill have not become official yet, as it is still a preliminary draft that has yet to become a completed bill. The leaking of the draft several weeks ago caused a stir of one congress official. The responsible officer who drafted the bill was summoned afterwards to a meeting held a few days ago with the Lebanese delegation which includes MPs Yassin Jaber, Mohammed Qabbani and former ambassador to Washington, Antoine Shedid. The officer was then asked about the circumstances of the publication of this draft.
Marmal revealed that the Lebanese delegation believed that all that was reported about the expansion of the sanctions to include Aoun and Berri were exaggerations and that there was no sign of their truth. However, despite this, Marmal stressed that the delegation’s mission was not easy, with members of the House of Representatives, the Senate and the National Security Council barricaded behind their positions against Hezbollah. On the other hand, an American expert monitoring this file assures that the Congress is in the process of preparing further sanctions, pointing out that the Lebanese delegation are wasting their time in vain to try to alleviate it. This is because the new US administration headed by Donald Trump is perusing their goals of eliminating terrorist organizations which include Hezbollah.
The same expert however denies what Hezbollah and their allies are trying to promote, and that is the sanctions will negatively affect the Lebanese economy, stressing that these sanctions will only apply to those who deal with Hezbollah in money laundering operations.
According the “Jumhouriya” newspaper on the American expert, the Lebanese delegation after its return from Washington, confirmed the statements of the expert in what was announced by MP Yassin Jaber. Despite the positive appearance, it does not suggest optimism. Between the lines, it is becoming more and more obvious that the American trend is making sure more sanctions are imposed on the party.
Some analysts point out that the trends the US sanctions is extending the list to include new names that have to do with the party, not to raise the level of sanctions. In addition, they aim to tightening control over Lebanon in order to push all institutions to abide by the law.
Hizbullah has recently confirmed through their Secretary-General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah that he does not have financial accounts in Lebanese banks and that his monetary operations are outside the Lebanese financial system and therefore sanctions will not affect them.
In his speech on the occasion of the Liberation Day, Nasrallah said in response to a campaign launched against them and Iran, their main supporter, that the United States is “fighting terrorism by placing a Hezbollah official on the list of terrorism”. Nasrallah Stressed that his party and its allies do not fear “the threat or the sanctions…” and “we are not afraid of neither war nor media intimidation.” Nasrallah said: “Today we are among the resistance movements stronger than ever was before, more numerous, and more determined.”