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US sanctions financial networks supporting Hezbollah and Iran

State Department accuses Lebanese group of exploiting commercial sector as a means to carry out 'acts of terrorism'
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks during a news conference at the State Department in Washington on 16 September 2021 (Pool via Reuters)

The United States on Friday sanctioned Lebanon and Kuwait-based financial conduits that fund the Lebanese group Hezbollah, as well as financial facilitators and front companies that support it and its sponsor Iran.

Washington accuses Hezbollah and Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force (IRGC-QF) of continuing to “exploit the international financial system to finance acts of terrorism”.

"Together, these networks have laundered tens of millions of dollars through regional financial systems and conducted currency exchange operations and trade in gold and electronics for the benefit of both Hezbollah and the IRGC-QF," US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement, referring to Iran's Quds force, the arm of its Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) that controls allied militias abroad.

Hezbollah uses revenues generated by these networks to “fund terrorist activities and to perpetuate instability in Lebanon and throughout the region”, the statement continued.

“The United States will not relent in targeting these networks, and we will continue to take action to disrupt their activities.”

Andrea M Gacki, director of the Office of Foreign Assets Control in the Treasury, echoed Blinken’s position and said that the US “will not hesitate to take action to disrupt networks that provide financial support” to the groups, according to a Treasury press release published on Friday.

Among individuals designated and sanctioned, the US Treasury said the measures apply to businessman Morteza Minaye Hashemi, who lives in China and who had funnelled money to Iran's Quds Force, the Treasury statement added.

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Two Chinese nationals had helped Hashemi establish bank accounts and served as straw owners for his companies, which were based in Hong Kong and mainland China, according to the Treasury statement.

It named the Chinese nationals as Yan Su Xuan and Song Jing. The statement said Yan Su Xuan, on Hashemi’s behalf, also purchased US-origin, dual-use products for onward shipment to Iran.

Blinken said Hezbollah was “increasingly looking for additional sources of revenue to bolster its coffers.

“We call on governments around the world to take steps to ensure Hezbollah and other terrorist groups do not exploit their territory and financial institutions,” said the top US diplomat.

In the latest high-profile collaboration between Hezbollah and Iran, Hezbollah secretary-general Hassan Nasrallah said the group had secured Iranian fuel for Lebanon, where severe fuel shortages have devastated everyday life amid the worst economic crisis in living memory.

The group said it had received its first delivery of Iranian fuel via Syria on Thursday.

Early on Thursday, the Iran-backed group's al-Manar TV said a convoy of at least 20 tanker trucks carrying Iranian fuel had already entered Lebanon from Syria. 

Nasrallah has warned adversaries the US and Israel against interfering, saying the shipment, which violates a US-imposed embargo on Iran, is considered "Lebanese territory”.