Over the past few years, Congress has passed several rounds of sanctions against the terrorist group and now the Department of Justice has revived a task force that was disbanded in 2015 to extensively target Hezbollah’s finances and ensure that neither Hezbollah nor its supporters are safe from US sanctions.
Let’s talk about one of those supporters: The Iranian Regime.
It is important to note that the Iranian Regime is not just Hezbollah’s main supporter, it is actually the only reason that Hezbollah exists in the first place. Hezbollah is merely a puppet for the Iranian Regime and all of Hezbollah’s malign activities can be traced back to the Regime. Therefore, these sanctions that target Hezbollah’s global narcotics empire, media properties, illicit money-making activities, and recruitment also hurt the Iranian Regime.
The sanctions also target foreign states, agencies and banks that have access to the US financial system and choose to facilitate Hezbollah, therefore cutting Hezbollah and by extension the Iranian Regime out of the global financial market even more.
So why, if both parties agree on tackling Hezbollah, was the previous task force disbanded? Well simply, to appease the Iranian Regime. The force, called Project Cassandra and led by the Drug Enforcement Administration, was weakened in order to get the Iranian Regime to agree to the nuclear deal. This could not make it any clearer that the Regime is the puppetmaster for Hezbollah.
While many are concerned about Hezbollah’s global operations, there is every reason to be worried about the operations inside Lebanon as well.
Jonathan Schanzer, a former terrorism finance analyst at the US Department of the Treasury, and current senior vice president at Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), and Mark Dubowitz, FDD’s CEO and leader of FDD’s Center on Sanctions and Illicit Finance (CSIF), wrote on Al Arabiya: “Hezbollah maintains a tight grip on Lebanon’s political system, and its influence only continues to grow. At the same time, the terror group controls swathes of territory in the Bekaa Valley, Southern Lebanon and the Beirut suburb of Dahiyeh. Are the banks there subject to the regulations of the Lebanese Central Bank [which paid a $102 million settlement in 2013 when presented with evidence that Hezbollah was using it to launder drug-trafficking profits] or to Hezbollah’s growing influence? Indeed, it seems improbable that LCB was the only bank to fall prey to Hezbollah.”
This means that the Iranian Regime- who were under US sanctions at the time- are entering the US financial market via their proxy. Worse still, many of Lebanon’s bankers insist that their banks are fully compliant with international standards and deny that Hezbollah exploited the system but Schanzer and Dubowitz argue that they are not actually looking for it.