US sanctions 3 Lebanese businessmen for alleged Hezbollah ties

US Treasury accuses Lebanese group of using the financial sector to amass ‘wealth that the Lebanese people never see’.

Hezbollah members holding flags
Hezbollah blames US sanctions, including measures against neighbouring Syria, for the worsening economic crisis in Lebanon [File: Aziz Taher/Reuters]

The Biden administration has imposed sanctions on three alleged Hezbollah “financial facilitators”, accusing them of providing material assistance to the Lebanese group.

The US Department of the Treasury on Tuesday blacklisted the businessmen – Adel Diab, Ali Mohamad Daoun and Jihad Salem Alame – as well as their Lebanon-based travel company, Dar Al Salam for Travel & Tourism.

“Through businessmen like those designated today, Hizballah gains access to material and financial support through the legitimate commercial sector to fund its acts of terrorism and attempts to destabilize Lebanon’s political institutions,” the Treasury said in a statement, using an alternative spelling for the Iran-backed group.

“The designations of the individuals and entity described below demonstrate Treasury’s ongoing efforts to target Hizballah’s continued attempts to exploit the global financial sector and evade sanctions.”

The sanctions freeze the three individuals’ assets in the United States and make it a potential crime for American citizens to do business with them.

The move came at a time when Lebanon is facing a financial meltdown with its currency losing more than 90 percent of its value during the past two years.

The US designated Hezbollah as a “terrorist” organisation in 1997, but the group has rejected the label and presents itself as a resistance force against Israel.

Hezbollah also has blamed US sanctions, including measures against neighbouring Syria, for the worsening economic crisis in Lebanon.

On Tuesday, the US Treasury accused Hezbollah of corruption and contributing to Lebanon’s economic collapse.

“Hizballah claims it supports the Lebanese people, but just like other corrupt actors in Lebanon that Treasury has designated, Hizballah continues to profit from insulated business ventures and backdoor political deals, amassing wealth that the Lebanese people never see,” Brian Nelson, the Treasury’s under-secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said in the statement.

While Hezbollah and its allies have faced the bulk of US sanctions in Lebanon, last year the Biden administration also sanctioned a businessman linked to former Prime Minister Saad Hariri.

In September, the US administration, in coordination with Qatar, slapped sanctions on several alleged Hezbollah financiers in the Gulf region.

Washington has been intensifying its efforts against Hezbollah’s financing network, with former President Donald Trump increasing pressure on the Iran-backed group as part of his “maximum pressure” campaign against Tehran.

Tuesday’s Treasury sanctions were announced as US and Iranian negotiators are engaged in indirect talks in Vienna to revive the 2015 nuclear deal that saw Tehran scale back its nuclear programme in exchange for a lifting of sanctions against its economy.

Source: Al Jazeera