The Biden administration is withholding from Congress a legally mandated report on Hezbollah's financial empire, information that lawmakers could use to increase pressure on the Iranian-backed terror group.
Congress ordered the State and Treasury Departments in early 2019 to produce a publicly available report on Hezbollah senior leadership's funding channels as part of legislation known as the Hezbollah International Financing Prevention Amendments Act of 2018. The bill mandated a report be produced 180 days after it was passed, by April 2019. The Trump administration never produced a report and the Biden administration is withholding it too.
Republican lawmakers and congressional sources familiar with the matter say the report has become increasingly critical as the Biden administration considers lifting economic sanctions on Hezbollah-controlled Lebanon as the country grapples with a massive cash crunch. Both the State and Treasury Departments declined to provide the Washington Free Beacon with information about the report or answer questions about why they have failed to comply with the law.
Rep. Pat Fallon (R., Texas), a member of the House Armed Services Committee, told the Free Beacon the report could be used to target Hezbollah's senior leadership and crack down on their efforts to steal cash and international aid meant for the Lebanese people. This information would also make it harder for the Biden administration to justify rolling back sanctions on Lebanon and providing the country with an economic bailout that could further enrich the terror group.
"I'm not surprised that after botching the retrograde in Afghanistan, the Biden administration is now not complying with reporting requirements stated in the Hezbollah International Financing Prevention Amendments Act of 2018," Fallon said. "Additionally, the possibility that this administration will bailout and lift sanctions on Lebanon is a play straight out of the Neville Chamberlain foreign policy playbook. Hezbollah alone is responsible for Lebanon's economic ruin."
As part of that 2018 legislation, Congress mandated a public report on the estimated net worth of Hezbollah's senior leaders, including Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah and his closest associates. The report was also to include information of Hezbollah associates, including those working in Lebanon's government, which continues to serve the Iranian-backed terror group.
Congressional sources say the Biden administration does not want to disclose the extent of Hezbollah's financial empire as it considers going along with international plans to provide Lebanon with a cash bailout. The issue has received increased congressional scrutiny amid separate reports the Biden administration is prepared to waive economic sanctions on the Assad regime in Syria to facilitate an energy deal with Lebanon.
Congress decided "the unclassified portion of the report required … shall be made available to the public in precompressed, easily downloadable versions that are made available in all appropriate formats," according to the legislation.
One senior congressional source who worked on drafting the original legislation told the Free Beacon that the report could help illustrate to the world and the Lebanese people how much money Hezbollah is stealing to fund its terrorism enterprise and stockpiling of weapons.
"Lebanon is collapsing because of Hezbollah's corruption, that is why this report is so important," said the source, who was not authorized to speak on record. "It is one of the few reports Congress ever designed on Hezbollah that we required to be publicly available on the internet for the world to see. The world deserves to see how much Hassan Nasrallah and his gang have stolen from their own people. Maybe instead of bailing out Hezbollah and lifting sanctions on the brutal Assad regime, the administration can concentrate more on stopping Hezbollah's corruption. We shouldn't reward Hezbollah and their buddy Assad for Hezbollah's own corruption."
Congressional Republicans also have been pushing a package of far-reaching new sanctions on Hezbollah that they say would cut off the group's access to funding. The Hezbollah report's findings would help lawmakers identify the funding channels that should be shut down.