Last week, the U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned two former Lebanese cabinet members—Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil and Transport Minister Yusuf Finyanus—for providing material support to Hezbollah and engaging in corruption. The designations follow intensified warnings from U.S. officials that a new wave of sanctions will target political allies of the terror group and other corrupt actors in Lebanon who “enable Hezbollah.”
On Tuesday, Counter Extremism Project (CEP) Senior Director Hans-Jakob Schindler, Polish MEP and former Foreign Affairs Minister Radoslaw Sikorski, and CEP Senior Advisor and former Irish Deputy Foreign Minister Lucinda Creighton, authored an op-ed in the EU Observer titled, “Time for EU to Get Real on Hezbollah.” It discusses the United Nations (U.N.) Security Council’s renewal of the U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) mandate on August 28 and urges the European Union (EU) to re-calibrate its foreign policy approach in the region by strengthening the U.N. mandate in a way that will bring real stability to Lebanon by curbing Hezbollah.
Last week’s deadly explosion in Beirut intensified scrutiny of Hezbollah’s role in Lebanon’s state security, the armed forces, financial resources, and political landscape. Since the explosion, several port officials have been placed under house arrest after investigators suggested negligence was involved in the storage of explosive fertilizer chemical ammonium nitrate.
Hezbollah Operatives Extradited As Law Enforcement Expands Efforts To Thwart Terror Operations Abroad
Law enforcement agencies around the globe are widening their efforts to dismantle the illicit activities and financial networks of Iran-backed proxy militias. In July, the United States and Paraguay moved to disrupt Hezbollah’s infrastructure and terror-financing apparatus with the extradition of two key operatives and financiers, Ghassan Diab and Assad Ahmad Barakat.
Leaders of the European Union (EU) last week received an unprecedented letter from 235 lawmakers representing 30 nations and 25 EU member states, urging the body to ban Iran’s Lebanese proxy Hezbollah and designate it in its entirety as a terrorist group. The letter, known as the Transatlantic Declaration on Hezbollah, was sent to Brussels ahead of the July 18 anniversary of the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish Cultural Center in Buenos Aires and the 2012 bombing of a passenger bus carrying Israeli tourists at the Burgas Airport in Bulgaria. Hezbollah was linked to both terrorist attacks.
Convicted Hezbollah financier and U.S.-designated a “global terrorist” Kassim Tajideen will be released early by the U.S. on compassionate grounds, according to multiple press reports. A court filing made on June 11 by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) indicated the 64-year-old Tajideen’s age and risk of contracting COVID-19 in prison factored into the release order. Both U.S. officials and Tajideen’s lawyers have denied that his release was part of a deal made with the Lebanese government in exchange for the return of a U.S.-Lebanese dual-national, Amer al-Fakhoury. Lebanon accused Fakhoury, who was released and returned to the United States earlier this year, of torturing prisoners during the Israeli occupation of Lebanon as a member of the now-defunct Israeli-backed South Lebanon Army.
Today, Germany designated Hezbollah in its entirety as a terrorist organization, banning all of its activities in the country. The announcement by the Federal Ministry of the Interior came hours after German authorities raided properties in Bremen, North Rhine-Westphalia, and Berlin, detaining several suspects accused of providing financial and propaganda support to the terrorist group. Germany had previously designated only Hezbollah’s so-called military wing as a terrorist group, allowing Hezbollah’s political supporters to freely operate in the country. Germany joins the Netherlands as the only EU member states to recognize the Iran-backed group as a single entity. The UK also designated Hezbollah in March 2019.
On March 15, 2020, a Hezbollah commander was arraigned in Carinthia, Austria, on the charge of financing terrorism. The commander, having lived in Carinthia for 13 years, stands accused of working for Hezbollah in Lebanon and financing operations for the terror group, and could face a 10-year prison sentence. His name has been withheld from the public and he remains free while awaiting trial. Austrian daily Kronen Zeitung reported that the charges had triggered public outrage over the defendant not remaining in custody while awaiting trial. The prosecution coincides with an anti-Hezbollah resolution passed by Austria’s parliament this month.
The Iranian-sponsored Lebanese terror group Hezbollah has grown militarily and politically despite U.N. resolutions and international agreements demanding its disarmament. In coming parliamentary elections May 6, Hezbollah will attempt to further increase its political power. CEP's new resource, Hezbollah's Influence in Lebanon, traces the group's history from its guerrilla origins into an organization that has permeated Lebanese society and threatened regional and international security.