US imposes new sanctions on Hezbollah after group brings Iran fuel to Lebanon
The United States has imposed sanctions on members of a network of Lebanon- and Kuwait-based financial conduits that allegedly fund the Lebanese Hezbollah resistance movement.
In a statement released on Friday, the US Department of the Treasury announced that its Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) is designating “members of an international network of financial facilitators and front companies” that operate in support of Hezbollah and the Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC).
“Together, these networks have laundered tens of millions of dollars through regional financial systems and conducted currency exchange operations and trades in gold and electronics for the benefit of both Hezbollah and the IRGC-QF. Hezbollah, with the support of the IRGC-QF, uses the revenues generated by these networks to fund terrorist activities, as well as to perpetuate instability in Lebanon and throughout the region,” it claimed.
Among the individuals blacklisted was China-based businessman Morteza Minaye Hashemi, who the Treasury accused of having laundered tens of millions of dollars for Hezbollah and Quds Force through foreign currency conversions and gold sales.
Chinese nationals Yan Su Xuan and Song Jing, it further alleged, had helped Hashemi establish bank accounts and serve as straw owners for his companies.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said, "The United States will not relent in targeting these networks, and we will continue to take actions to disrupt their activities.”
OFAC Director Andrea M Gacki echoed Blinken’s position and said that the US “will not hesitate to take action to disrupt networks that provide financial support” to the groups.
The sanctions would involve the seizure of US-based property of the individuals and entities and prohibit all transactions with them.
They were imposed at a time, when American media wrote about the success of Hezbollah in supplying Iranian fuel to Lebanon, a move that humiliated the US and Israel.
Hezbollah managed to ease the pain of people in Lebanon, which is nearly paralyzed by an economic crisis and fuel shortages.
The US, however, has exacerbated Lebanon’s woes by imposing a siege on the Mediterranean country in a bid to force the formation of a Western-friendly administration there.
In early September, an Iranian ship unloaded its fuel cargo at Syria’s Baniyas port, from where it was transferred to Lebanon via tanker trucks.
The first convoy of the tanker trucks arrived in northeastern Lebanon on Thursday, with Hezbollah supporters celebrating their arrival by lining roads, waving flags, distributing sweets, blasting heroic anthems and firing rocket-propelled grenades into the air.
“With Lebanon suffering one of the worst economic collapses in modern history, Hezbollah portrayed itself as a national savior, stepping in where the Lebanese government and its Western backers had failed,” The New York Times reported.
“Nearly every step of the fuel’s journey was a challenge to the United States, which has imposed sanctions on the purchase of Iranian oil, the Syrian government, Hezbollah and the Hezbollah-linked company that will distribute the fuel inside Lebanon.”
Ahmed Raya, a Hezbollah media official, said that the shipment was the first tranche of 13.2 million gallons an Iranian ship delivered to Baniyas and that the rest will take several days to offload and transport to Lebanon.
Hezbollah Secretary-General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said, “Our aim is not trade or profit,” but “to alleviate the suffering of the people.”
He added that three more Iranian ships, one carrying gasoline and two carrying diesel, were en route to Syria.
Early on Saturday, Lebanon’s al-Mayadeen TV channel reported that the second convoy of fuel tankers loaded with Iranian fuel had crossed the Syrian border and was heading towards Lebanon.