image Photo: Reuters

US sanctions ex-Lebanese ministers for Hezbollah ties

The U.S. State Department released a statement announcing that “For too long, Lebanon’s political leaders have ignored their responsibility to address the needs of their people and instead built a political system that serves their private interests.”

Washington further accused “Lebanon’s dysfunctional political system” of enabling a terrorist group, namely the Iranian-proxy Hezbollah, to hold the country’s governance hostage to its own agenda. However, in support of “the Lebanese people’s call for reform,” the United States pledged to “use all available authorities to promote accountability for Lebanese leaders who have failed their people.”

Consequently, the U.S. State Department revealed that former Lebanese ministers Yusuf Finyanus and Ali Hassan Khalil have been added to the list of sanctioned individuals pursuant to Executive Order 13224, which provides a legal foundation to ‘block property and prohibit transactions with persons who commit, threaten to commit, or support terrorism.’

“While holding positions in previous Lebanese cabinets, Finyanus and Khalil directed political and economic favors to Hezbollah, including ensuring Hezbollah-owned companies won government contracts worth millions of dollars and moving money from government ministries to Hezbollah-associated institutions,” charged the U.S. State Department.

In related developments, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte just concluded an official trip to Beirut for meetings with Lebanese officials. The Italian leader added Rome’s voice to those from Paris, Washington and other international capitals demanding that Beirut immediately implement crucial reforms to root out corruption and political elitism at the highest levels. He also inspected more than 1000 Italian troops stationed in the country as part of the United Nations Interim Forces In Lebanon (UNIFIL) peacekeeping force.

“Obviously for our support to be helpful there needs to be a great sense of responsibility on the part of (Lebanese) authorities and a great national cohesion towards a shared direction for reform,” said the Italian Prime Minister, adding that “the emergency, which I have just said to the armed forces now, the emergency here is 360 degrees, an emergency that has been going on for some time, an economic and social emergency made worse by the pandemic, and emergency due to the explosion, the tragedy of August 4, the explosion in the port. There is a great suffering, it can be overcome with a strong political pact, a pact between the best strengths of society, the best political, social, cultural and economic forces.”