The Trump administration on Thursday issued a new batch of sanctions on the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah in the latest salvo aimed at disrupting the Iranian-backed organization's illicit funding and weapons networks, according to information provided by the State and Treasury Departments.
As Iran continues to ratchet up regional support for terror groups that have attacked American and allied forces, the Trump administration is moving to disrupt these terror groups by hitting them in their pocketbooks. The latest sanctions target Lebanon's Jammal Trust Bank SAL, which the Trump administration has identified as providing "illicit financial and banking activities" for Hezbollah.
The Trump administration has walked a tricky diplomatic line with Lebanon as it seeks to support the country's legitimate military forces while attempting to ensure money and military hardware does not make its way to Hezbollah operatives, who have bragged in the past about siphoning American weapons from the Lebanese Armed Forces.
Hezbollah continues to keep an overwhelming grip on Lebanon's economy, government, and military, making it all the more difficult for the international community to work with the country's government.
"Today's designation reflects our determination to counter Hezbollah's terrorist and illicit activities in Lebanon," Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement accompanying the sanctions. "We will continue to target individuals and entities involved in financing and providing support to Hezbollah while working closely with the Central Bank of Lebanon and other Lebanese institutions which work to preserve the integrity and stability of Lebanon's banking system."
The Jammal Trust Bank "has a longstanding relationship with a key Hezbollah financial entity and provides financial services to the Martyrs Foundation and companies controlled by Hezbollah's Executive Council," according to Pompeo, who said the financial institution's "misconduct undermines the integrity of the Lebanese financial system."
While Hezbollah was officially designated by the United States as a terrorist group in 1997, it has continued to receive great amounts of funding from Iran and its allies in the Lebanese financial community.
The targeting of Jammal Trust Bank with sanctions will cut off a key source of the group's funding, according to the Treasury Department.
"Hezbollah has used accounts at Jammal Trust to pay its operatives and their families, and Jammal Trust has actively attempted to conceal its banking relationship with numerous wholly-owned Martyrs Foundation subsidiaries," according to information provided by the Treasury Department.
Sigal Mandelker, undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said the new sanctions are part of the administration's ongoing efforts to disrupt Hezbollah's financial networks, which reach far outside Lebanon's borders.
"Treasury is targeting Jammal Trust Bank and its subsidiaries for brazenly enabling Hezbollah's financial activities," Mandelker said. "Corrupt financial institutions like Jammal Trust are a direct threat to the integrity of the Lebanese financial system."
"The U.S. will continue to work with the Central Bank of Lebanon to deny Hezbollah access to the international financial system," Mandelker said. "This action is a warning to all who provide services to this terrorist group."
The targeting of Jammal bank is likely to rock Lebanon's economy, a situation the U.S. Treasury Department is aware of and hoping to mitigate with the help of Lebanon's Central Bank.
"Today's action highlights how Hezbollah continues to prioritize its interests, and those of its chief sponsor, Iran, over the welfare of Lebanese citizens and Lebanon's economy," the department said. "We regret that Hezbollah has brought hardship to the Shia community, in particular, and call upon the Lebanese Government to exert every effort to mitigate the impacts on innocent account holders who did not realize Hezbollah was putting their savings at risk."
"The United States is confident that the Central Bank of Lebanon and other Lebanese institutions, through their legal and regulatory policies and oversight functions, will continue to work to protect the stability and soundness of Lebanon's financial system, which is critical to supporting a stable and prosperous economy," according to the Treasury Department.