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US slaps sanctions on Hezbollah-linked businessmen in Lebanon

Treasury Department accuses Lebanese group of blocking economic reforms and 'amassing wealth that the Lebanese people never see'
A Lebanese woman sets a poster on fire bearing portraits of Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah (top R) and other politicians at a protest in Beirut on 17 January 2022 (AFP)
By in
New York

The US Treasury Department imposed sanctions on three Lebanese businessmen with alleged links to Hezbollah on Tuesday, claiming their activity as financial facilitators for the Iran-backed group was exploiting Lebanon's economic resources at a time of crisis.

The Treasury said in a statement that while Hezbollah claims it supports the Lebanese people, it "continues to profit from insulated business ventures and backdoor political deals, amassing wealth that the Lebanese people never see".

The Treasury said it had added Adel Diab and Jihad Salem Alame, along with Ali Mohamad Daoun, and their company Dar Al Salam for Travel & Tourism, to its sanctions list.

The men are accused of aiding and serving as financial facilitators for the group that the US has designated a Foreign Terrorist Organisation.

Hezbollah is one of the largest political factions in Lebanon, and also maintains a well-armed militia with a cache of tens of thousands of missiles. The US has long targeted Hezbollah officials and their allies with sanctions.

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"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.

Lebanon is in the grips of a financial crisis that the World Bank has said could rank among the world's worst since the mid-1800s.

The Lebanese cabinet under Prime Minister Najib Mikati has not met since 12 October due to protests by Hezbollah, and its Shia ally, Amal, about the investigation into the deadly Beirut port explosion in August 2020.

The country's economic meltdown began in 2019 when the financial system collapsed under the weight of huge state debt and lack of foreign currency – the result of decades of corruption, economic mismanagement, and unsustainable financing.

The international community has for years pressed Lebanon to reform its economy, implement anti-corruption mechanisms, and reach an agreement with the International Monetary Fund in order to unlock billions of dollars in developmental aid.

In December, President Michel Aoun said Lebanon needed "six to seven years" to emerge from the crisis.

Lebanon is also struggling to resolve a diplomatic row with Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, and Kuwait, which have been critical of Hezbollah for its role in Yemen and other regional conflicts.