US, Qatar sanction major Hezbollah finance network in Gulf

Seven men, including a Palestinian national, have been designated as Global Terrorists, and have had their assets frozen.

By Donna Rachel Edmunds, World Israel News

The United States, in conjunction with Qatar, has taken action against a major Hezbollah finance network, imposing sanctions on seven alleged financiers of the Lebanese group in the Gulf region.

According to the U.S. State department, three men have been sanctioned as Specially Designated Global Terrorists for having given financial or other assistance to Hezbollah, and four others have likewise been designated, for lending their support to the supply chain.

Six of the men are citizens of Qatar, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, while the seventh is a Palestinian national.

Additionally, a Qatar-based real estate company, AlDar Properties, has also been designated as it is owned and controlled by one of the men, Sulaiman al-Banai.

The sanction makes it a potential crime to do business with any of the men or the company in America, and freezes any American assets they may hold.

“This represents one of the most significant joint actions we have taken with a Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) partner to date and underscores our extensive bilateral cooperation on countering terrorism finance,” the U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.

“Hizballah seeks to abuse the international financial system by developing global networks of financiers to fill its coffers and support its terrorist activity,” Office of Foreign Assets Control Director Andrea M. Gacki said, adding: “The cross-border nature of this Hizballah financial network underscores the importance of our continued cooperation with international partners, such as the Government of Qatar, to protect the U.S. and international financial systems from terrorist abuse.”

The action was confirmed by Doha on Wednesday night in a statement confirming that seven men and one business had been designated, without naming the individuals or business in question.

Hezbollah emerged as a guerrilla terror group in the 1980s, but has since gone on to wield considerable influence in Lebanon through the country’s political system. The party gained the third largest number of seats in Parliament at the last election in 2018, which it leveraged to take 18 of 30 cabinet positions. The party has also created its own parallel institutions within Lebanon’s educational, social, and economic sectors.

However, the Iranian-backed group also acts as a Shia militia. A 2021 Congressional research paper noted: “For nearly two decades, Hezbollah’s stated objective was to drive IDF forces from southern Lebanon, through a range of attacks on Israeli military and civilian targets. Since the Israeli withdrawal in May 2000, Hezbollah has used the remaining Israeli presence in … disputed areas in the Lebanon-Syria-Israel tri-border region to justify its ongoing conflict with Israel—and its persistence as an armed militia alongside the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF).”

Hezbollah was designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization by the United States in 1997, and as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist in 2001. The Gulf Cooperation Council designated Hezbollah as a terrorist organization in 2016.

“The United States will continue to cooperate with partners, such as the Government of Qatar, to protect the U.S. and international financial systems from terrorist abuse,” Blinken said, adding: “Concurrent with this action, the Government of Bahrain has frozen bank accounts and referred three individuals to their prosecutor’s office.”

Pointing out that 14 other countries have already taken action to designate, restrict, or ban the terror group, Blinken added: “We urge other governments to follow suit.”