Jay Jackson - Thursday 17th May, 2018
WASHINGTON DC - A number of Arab countries have tightened the screws on the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, joining with the United States to jointly impose sanctions on the group's leadership.
Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah has been targeted along with the group's deputy leader Naim Qassem.
Curiously Nasrallah, whose name barely crops up in media reports, has been blamed for almost all the conflicts, violence and instability in the Middle East.
Leading the charge with the U.S. is Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, Qatar, and Oman. Kuwait has imposed sanctions on nine of the Hezbollah leadership group, but withheld sanctioning Nasrallah.
The announcement of the joint-cooperative measure was made by the U.S. Treasury on Wednesday night on behalf of the Terrorist Financing and Targeting Center (TFTC).
"The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) in partnership with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the co-chair of the Terrorist Financing Targeting Center (TFTC), and the other TFTC member states – the Kingdom of Bahrain, the State of Kuwait, the Sultanate of Oman, the State of Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) – designated members of Hezbollah’s Shura Council, the primary decision-making body of Hezballah," the statement read. "Specifically, OFAC, together with Gulf partners, designated Hassan Nasrallah, the Secretary General of Hezbollah, Naim Qasim, Muhammad Yazbak, Husayn Al- Khalil, and Ibrahim al-Amin al-Sayyid pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13224, which targets terrorists and those providing support to terrorists or acts of terrorism."
"In addition, TFTC Member States also designated the following key Hezbollah-affiliated individuals and entities: Talal Hamiyah, Ali Youssef Charara, Spectrum Group, Hasan Ebrahimi, Maher Trading, Hashem Safieddine, Adham Tabaja, Al-Inmaa Group, and Al-Inmaa Engineering and Contracting, all of whom were previously designated by the U.S.," the statement said.
“The TFTC again demonstrated its great value to international security by disrupting Iran and Hezbollah’s destabilizing influence in the region. By targeting Hezbollah’s Shura Council, our nations collectively rejected the false distinction between a so-called ‘Political Wing’ and Hezbollah’s global terrorist plotting,” Secretary of the Treasury Steven T. Mnuchin said Wednesday.
The statement went on to blame the Hezbollah secretary-general for ''prolonging the human suffering in Syria, fueling the violence in Iraq and Yemen, putting the Lebanese state and the Lebanese people at risk, and destabilizing the entire region."
The joint initiative, says the Treasury department, follows President Trump's decision last week to withdraw from the international pact with Iran and to re-impose santions on the Islamic Republic.
The Shura Council, says the Treasury department, is Hezbollah’s supreme decision-making body responsible for religious, military, and strategic matters. In the event of a deadlock in the Shura Council, the Supreme Leader of Iran casts the deciding vote, the Treasury department says.
Th specific charges by the U.S. Treasury Department and the Gulf states are:
Hassan Nasrallah (Nasrallah) was designated for acting for or on behalf of Hezbollah, which he has led since 1992. As the Secretary General and head of the Shura Council, Nasrallah is Hezbollah’s highest-ranking official and exercises direct command over its military and security apparatus as its supreme commander, including its involvement in the war in Syria. Nasrallah has stated that Hezbollah’s intervention in the war in Syria marked a completely new phase for the organization, sending military forces abroad to protect its interests.
OFAC previously designated Nasrallah as a Specially Designated Terrorist pursuant to E.O. 12947, “Prohibiting Transactions with Terrorists Who Threaten to Disrupt the Middle East Peace Process,” on January 23, 1995, and pursuant to E.O. 13582, “Blocking Property of the Government of Syria and Prohibiting Certain Transactions with Respect to Syria,” on September 13, 2012.
OFAC and the TFTC designated Naim Qasim (Qasim) for acting for or on behalf of Hezbollah. Qasim is the Deputy Secretary General of Hezbollah, which he joined in the early 1980s. Before ascending to his current position, he served as the Deputy President of the Executive Council. Qasim has stated that Hezbollah does not separate its military and political wings. Specifically, he has said that Hezbollah “has one single leadership, and its name is the Decision Making Shura Council. It manages the political activity, the jihad activity, the cultural activity, and the social activities.”
OFAC and the TFTC designated Muhammad Yazbak (Yazbak), one of Hezbollah’s original founders, for acting for or on behalf of Hezbollah. Yazbak is the current leader of the Judicial Council and has overseen a military command in central Lebanon that provides logistical and training support to Hezbollah. He has supervised training camps and the smuggling of weapons, and hosted experts from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps to train Hezbollah fighters on weapons systems. Yazbak has also managed the grpup’s bank accounts.
OFAC and the TFTC designated Husayn Al-Khalil, Hassan Nasrallah’s political advisor, for acting for or on behalf of Hezbollah. Previously, he was one of several senior commanders who shared responsibility for the group’s special operations in Europe.
Ibrahim al-Amin al-Sayyid
OFAC and the TFTC designated Ibrahim al-Amin al-Sayyid (al-Sayyid) for acting for or on behalf of Hezbollah. Al-Sayyid is the head of the group’s Political Council. He was the first official spokesperson and was involved in the formation of Hezbollah.
"As a result of today’s action, all property and interests in property of Hassan Nasrallah, Naim Qasim, Muhammad Yazbak, Husayn Khalil, and Ibrahim Amin al-Sayyid that are in the United States or in the possession or control of U.S. persons must be blocked and reported to OFAC," the U.S. treasury department statement said.
Additional TFTC Member State Designations:
Talal Hamiyah (Hamiyah) is the head of Hezbollah's External Security Organization (ESO), which maintains organized cells worldwide. The ESO is the Hezbollah element responsible for the planning, coordination, and execution of terrorist attacks outside of Lebanon. OFAC designated Hamiyah on September 13, 2012 pursuant to E.O. 13224.
Hashem Safieddine (Safieddine) is a senior leader in Hezbollah and a key member of Hezbollah’s executive council. The Department of State designated Safieddine on May 19, 2017 pursuant to E.O. 13224. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia joined the United States in designating Safieddine on the same day.
Ali Youssef Charara and Spectrum Group
Ali Charara (Charara) has facilitated commercial investments on behalf of Hezbollah. Charara's company, Spectrum Investment Group Holding SAL, is a Lebanon-based telecommunications company that provides integrated telecommunications services in the Middle East, Africa, and Europe. OFAC designated Charara and the Spectrum Group pursuant to E.O. 13224 on January 7, 2016.
Adham Tabaja, Al-Inmaa Group, and Al-Inmaa Engineering and Contracting
Adham Tabaja (Tabaja) maintains direct ties to senior Hezbollah organizational elements, including the group’s operational component, the Islamic Jihad, and holds properties in Lebanon on behalf of the group. Tabaja is the majority owner of the Lebanon-based real estate development and construction firm Al-Inmaa Group. The company’s subsidiaries include Al-Inmaa Engineering and Contracting which has been used by Hezbollah as an investment mechanism. Tabaja has used the Iraqi branches of Al-Inmaa Engineering and Contracting to obtain oil and construction development projects in Iraq that provide both financial support and organizational infrastructure to Hezbollah. OFAC designated Tabaja, Al-Inmaa Group, and Al-Inmaa Engineering and Contracting pursuant to E.O. 13224 on June 10, 2015. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia designated Tabaja, Al-Inmaa Group, and Al-Inmaa Engineering and Contracting in November 2015.
Hasan Ebrahimi and Maher Trading
Hasan Ebrahimi, an IRGC-QF official based in Beirut, Lebanon has facilitated cash transfers to Hezbollah worth millions of dollars. Ebrahimi is the manager of Maher Trading, which has been used to launder funds and smuggle goods to Lebanese militant group. OFAC designated Ebrahimi and Maher Trading pursuant to E.O. 13224 on February 3, 2017.
Matthew Levitt, an expert on sanctions and a former U.S. Treasury official, told the Abu Dhabi-based The National newspaper, “these measures are impactful not only as a means of exposing Hezbollah’s illicit conduct and the intimate ties between its military/terrorist and social/political activities, but also because it plugs into 2014’s Hezbollah International Financing Prevention Act and is therefore liable for secondary sanctions.”
Mr Levitt, who works for the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, highlighted “the fact the GCC countries, including Qatar, joined the U.S. for most of these designations further exposes the rift between Sunni Arab states and Hezbollah over the latter’s activities in Syria, Iraq and Yemen.”
The joint action should be alarming to the Lebanese government," Nicholas Heras, a fellow at the Center for New American Security told The National. “The US-Gulf coordination is meant to be a powerful punch in the face to the status quo in Lebanon,” he said. “That status quo is run under the assumption that there is a regional safety valve for the Lebanese. The Trump administration, and its Gulf partners, are closing that valve.”
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