Hezbollah is working to destroy Lebanon’s banking system and will face new sanctions on its “activities”, a senior US official said yesterday, Al-Arabiya reports.
In an interview with Lebanese daily Al-Hadeel, David Schenker, the US’ assistant secretary of state for near eastern affairs, said: “What Hezbollah is doing is a complete threat to Lebanon… when Lebanon cannot afford any other crisis, in addition to the financial crisis” the country is facing.
Schenker added Hezbollah will face a new set of sanctions targeting the organisations “activities” and its allies, saying: “Yes, there will be sanctions… related to combating Hezbollah’s activities.”
The senior US official also claimed America has not prevented dollars from entering the country but attributed the severe months long shortage to Hezbollah’s activities, including smuggling and tax evasion.
The Iranian-backed Shia militia has long been believed to be money laundering and is thought to smuggle goods, including drugs, and cash over the border into Syria and out of the country via Lebanon’s ports.
New sanctions are likely to fall under the Global Magnitsky Act – legislation which allows the US government to sanction foreign officials involved in human rights abuses and corruption anywhere in the world.
In the interview, Schenker also claimed that while Lebanon’s current government is seeking to implement reforms and unlock desperately needed international aid donations, Hezbollah refuses to allow the country to reform and “lives on corruption”.
Schenker appears to have made no comment on the heavy backing from Hezbollah, enjoyed by the Lebanese government, nor the two ministerial posts, including the health ministry, held by members of Shia militia.
The US official also warned against turning to China and Iran for financial help, which was a solution suggested by Hezbollah’s Secretary-General, Hassan Nasrallah, last week.
Schenker termed the move a “trap”, noting the lack of help provided by either China or Iran during the coronavirus pandemic.
Concerning rising tensions between Lebanon and Israel, which technically are still in a state of war, Schenker told Al-Hadeel, the US would support Tel Aviv’s “right to self-defence” and claimed Hezbollah “always carries out actions that might lead to conflict”.