Proposals to strengthen US sanctions against Hezbollah have been revised enough to relieve fears of damage to the Lebanese economy, according to well-informed banking and political sources.
This new step has signaled Washington’s serious response to concerns about Lebanon’s stability.
However, officials in the banking sector told Reuters that the Lebanese authorities should not underestimate the new US effort, as it was impossible to predict the position of US President Donald Trump towards Iran and its allies and that the draft law would not be voted on until Congress convenes again in the fall.
When reports emerged earlier this year on US plans to expand legislation on sanctions against Hezbollah, local media warned of dire consequences on Lebanon’s weak economy and sectarian divisions.
The Lebanese government, the central bank and private banks have put great pressure on politicians and banks in the United States this year in an attempt to persuade Washington to balance its tough anti-Hezbollah stance for the sake of the country’s stability.
Their main message has been that the last thing needed by the United States, which backs the Lebanese army in its fight against ISIS and other militants spilling over from Syria, is another failed state in the Middle East, according to Reuters.
The agency noted that those efforts have succeeded, as the draft law submitted to Congress in late July did not include the main elements that had caused fears among Lebanese politicians and financial leaders.
Financial sources told Reuters the proposed anti-Hezbollah legislation, when compared with earlier draft proposals, was more specific about who could be targeted, and was no longer seen as affecting the whole of Lebanon’s Shi’ite Muslim population.
The Iranian-backed Hezbollah has significant influence in Lebanon’s national unity government. US officials say Hezbollah is not only funded by Iran but by networks of Lebanese and international individuals and companies.
The US Hezbollah International Financing Prevention Act of 2015 aimed to cut the group’s funding routes around the world, and in July Republican and Democratic US lawmakers proposed amendments to strengthen it.