Hizballah Is Trying to Take Over the Lebanese Economy

Nov. 29 2018

In March, Hizballah’s leader Hasan Nasrallah declared in a speech that his group, which effectively controls the Lebanese parliament, would begin to focus on reducing government corruption and enacting financial and monetary reforms. Elisheva Simon explains that this was not mere propaganda but signaled a shift away from the longstanding arrangement whereby the terrorist group left the management of the Lebanese economy to its Sunni allies. She writes:

Nasrallah’s [rhetoric may appeal to] many in Lebanon who complain about the corruption that has spread to all sectors of life, especially in government offices and public administration. Yet, . . . since its inception, Hizballah has been a fundamentally corrupt body that has no loyalty to the state and even undermines its foundations. It is a terrorist organization whose main funding comes from a global trade in drugs and arms; it possesses an arsenal of weapons on par with a country; . . . it is engaged in smuggling by land, sea, and air; it is involved in civil wars (in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen), terrorist activity, and the subversion of regimes throughout the Arab world (Bahrain and Saudi Arabia); and it cooperates with crime and drug rings . . . in order to obtain their political support. . . .

Hizballah’s decision to intervene actively in the management of the economic and monetary sectors is evidently another step in [its evolution] from an Islamic organization that views the country as a corrupt and ruthless entity into an organization partnering fully not only with political institutions but also with the economic system and public administration. . . .

Hizballah’s leadership has [also] come to realize that harsher U.S. sanctions pose a serious threat to the revolutionary regime in Tehran. It will become increasingly difficult for the regime to finance the full spectrum of its revolutionary ambitions, including its many “tentacles” in Lebanon and elsewhere. Hizballah therefore has to focus on securing its own sources of funding and providing employment for its members and followers through ever-deeper engagement in Lebanon’s economic and financial spheres of activity.

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Read more at Jerusalem Institute for Strategic Studies

More about: Hizballah, Iran sanctions, Lebanon, Politics & Current Affairs

“Ending the War in Yemen” Would Lead to More Bloodshed and Threaten Global Trade

Dec. 13 2018

A bipartisan movement is afloat in Congress to end American support for the Saudi-led coalition currently fighting the Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen. With frustration at Riyadh over the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, reports of impending famine and a cholera outbreak in Yemen, and mounting casualties, Congress could go so far as to cut all funding for U.S. involvement in the war. But to do so would be a grave mistake, argues Mohammed Khalid Alyahya:

Unfortunately, calls to “stop the Yemen war,” though morally satisfying, are fundamentally misguided. . . . A precipitous disengagement by the Saudi-led coalition . . . would have calamitous consequences for Yemen, the Middle East, and the world at large. The urgency to end the war reduces that conflict, and its drivers, to a morality play, with the coalition of Arab states cast as the bloodthirsty villain killing and starving Yemeni civilians. The assumption seems to be that if the coalition’s military operations are brought to a halt, all will be well in Yemen. . . .

[But] if the Saudi-led coalition were to cease operations, Iran’s long arm, the Houthis, would march on areas [previously controlled by the Yemeni government] and exact a bloody toll on the populations of such cities as Aden and Marib with the same ruthlessness with which they [treated] Sanaa and Taiz during the past three years. The rebels have ruled Sanaa, kidnapping, executing, disappearing, systematically torturing, and assassinating detractors. In Taiz, they fire mortars indiscriminately at the civilian population and snipers shoot at children to force residents into submission.

[Moreover], an abrupt termination of the war would leave Iran in control of Yemen [and] deal a serious blow to the global economy. Iran would have the ability to obstruct trade and oil flows from both the Strait of Hormuz and the Bab el-Mandeb strait. . . . About 24 percent of the world’s petroleum and petroleum products passes through these two waterways, and Iran already has the capability to disrupt oil flows from Hormuz and threatened to do so this year. Should Iran acquire that capability in Bab el-Mandeb by establishing a foothold in the Gulf of Aden, even if it chose not to utilize this capability oil prices and insurance costs would surge.

Allowing Tehran to control two of the most strategic choke points for the global energy market is simply not an option for the international community. There is every reason to believe that Iran would launch attacks on maritime traffic. The Houthis have mounted multiple attacks on commercial and military vessels over the past several years, and Iran has supplied its Yemeni proxy with drone boats, conventional aerial drones, and ballistic missiles.

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Read more at The Hill

More about: Iran, Oil, Politics & Current Affairs, Saudi Arabia, U.S. Foreign policy, Yemen