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Port Explosion Revives US Plans to Sanction Lebanese Officials

Port Explosion Revives US Plans to Sanction Lebanese Officials

Wednesday, 12 August, 2020 - 11:45
Speaker Nabih Berri (R) meets with former minister Gebran Bassil. (NNA)

Last week’s explosion that shattered the Lebanese capital revived US draft-laws aimed at imposing sanctions on Lebanese officials for corruption and links with Hezbollah.

For months, US lawmakers and officials have been preparing draft-laws and proposals to impose sanctions on Lebanese officials and political parties because of their direct links with Hezbollah, which is classified as a terrorist organization in the United States, or because of their involvement in corruption and extensive violations of human rights.

Thirteen Republican members of the Congress submitted a 111-page draft-bill to impose the largest sanctions yet on Iran, including designating the Houthis in Yemen as a terrorist group, stopping aid to Lebanon, and punishing former Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil and parliament Speaker Nabih Berri.

The proposal confirms the hawkish trend within the Republican Party, said Ryan Bohl, an analyst at Stratfor, an intelligence company. But he expected that these sanctions would not be passed immediately due to the opposition of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to cut off aid to Lebanon.

“It seems unlikely that it will pass, especially with the approaching elections in November, and the unwillingness of the Democrats to appear as if they were creating external tensions,” he said.

The Republican Study Committee prepared a paper recommending the punishment of the Iranian regime and its Lebanese agents or Lebanese leaders allied with Hezbollah, in addition to stopping the aid allocated to the Lebanese army. The paper listed the names of Hezbollah supporters, including former Health Minister Jamil Jabak, MP Jamil al-Sayyed and former Foreign Minister Fawzi Salloukh.

Subsequently, Republican Sen. Ted Cruz and Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin submitted a bill to combat Hezbollah and withhold 20 percent of US military aid to the Lebanese army “unless the Lebanese President (Michel Aoun) can prove that he is taking the necessary steps to end the influence of Hezbollah and Iran over the Lebanese army.”

Sen. Mike Johnson considered that there was “no good reason to continue providing aid to Lebanon, after Hezbollah, one of Iran’s proxies in the Middle East, took control of the country.”

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