Economic Warfare Is Taking a Toll on Hizballah but Stricter Measures Are Necessary

Jan. 30 2019

Since January 2017, the Trump administration has taken a variety of steps not only to tighten sanctions on Iran, but also to sanction directly its Lebanese proxy Hizballah. Ali Bakeer argues that these measures, if strengthened further and aimed against both the terrorist group’s own financial empire and the financial pipeline from Tehran, can significantly weaken it:

[The] organizational structure and stretched regional agenda of Hizballah require huge financial capabilities. . . . Indeed, since 2006, Hizballah established itself as the second-largest employer in Lebanon after the Lebanese state. Although ideological [and] religious factors are important in securing the support of [Lebanese Shiites], it is mostly through money that Hizballah is able to carry out its agenda and sustain the loyalty and support of a large segment of Lebanese society. . . .

Since its establishment in the early 1980s, Hizballah relied heavily on money from Iran. However, during the last two decades, it has worked hard to diversify its sources of income. . . . To that end, the Shiite party built its own parallel economy inside Lebanon and [engaged] in economic and financial activities across several continents—from Africa to Latin America to Asia. Its activities as “a transnational criminal organization” [to use the U.S. Justice Department’s term] mainly include money laundering, construction, and contracting. . . .

Aware of its financial vulnerability, Hizballah recently slashed its expenditures and is encouraging many of its members and supporters to find jobs working for the Lebanese government. . . .

[However], the sanctions against Iran are not tight enough. Since 2009, the Iranian people have become more sensitive regarding the financial support given by their government to such regional allies as Hizballah. Although more sanctions on Iran might not eliminate its financial support for its ally in Lebanon altogether, they would certainly reduce it and incite more Iranian people to protest against this kind of support. Historical experience proves that whenever the sanctions on Tehran are tight and/or oil prices are low, Iran as a state tends to reduce its support for Hizballah to a minimum.

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Read more at National Interest

More about: Donald Trump, Hizballah, Iran sanctions, Lebanon, Politics & Current Affairs, U.S. Foreign policy


European Aid to the Middle East Is Shaped by a Political Agenda

Feb. 18 2019

The EU’s European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations Unit dispenses millions of dollars in economic and humanitarian assistance to dozens of countries every year. Although it claims to operate on principles of strict neutrality, independent of any political motivation and giving priority to the neediest cases, a look at its activities in the Middle East suggests an entirely different approach, as Hillel Frisch writes:

[T]he Middle East is the overwhelming beneficiary of EU humanitarian aid—nearly 1 billion of just over 1.4 billion euros. . . . The bulk of the funds goes toward meeting the costs of assistance to Syrian refugees, followed by smaller sums to Iraq, Yemen, “Palestine,” and North Africa. Sub-Saharan Africa, by contrast, receives less than one-third of that amount. The problem with such allocations is that the overwhelming majority of people living in dire poverty reside in sub-Saharan Africa, India, and Bangladesh. . . . The Palestinians, who are richer on average than those living in the poorest states of the world, . . . receive over six euros per capita, while the populations of the poorest states receive less than one-eighth of that amount. . . .

Even less defensible is the EU’s claim to political neutrality. Its favoritism toward the Palestinians on this score is visible as soon as one enters terms into the general search function on the European Commission’s website. Enter “Palestine” and you get 20,737 results. Enter “Ethiopia” and you get almost the same figure, despite massive differences in population size (Ethiopia’s 100 million versus fewer than 5 million Palestinians), geographic expanse (Ethiopia is 50 times the size of “Palestine”), and degree of sheer suffering. The Syrian crisis, which is said to have led to the loss of a half-million lives, merits not many more site results than “Palestine.”

One of the foci of the website’s reports [on the Palestinians] is the plight of 35,000 Bedouin whom the EU assists, often in clear violation of the law, in Area C—the part of the West Bank under exclusive Israeli control. The hundreds of thousands of Bedouin in Sinai, however, the plight of whom is readily acknowledged even by Egyptian officials, gets no mention, even though Egypt is a recipient of EU aid. . . .

Clearly, the EU’s approach to aid allocation has nothing to do with impartiality, true social-welfare needs, or humanitarian considerations. [Instead], it favors allocations to Syrian refugees above Yemeni refugees because of the higher probability that Syrian refugees will find their way to Europe. . . . The recipients of European largesse who are next in line [to Syrians], in relative terms, are the Palestinians. [This particular policy] can be attributed primarily to the EU’s hostility toward Israel, its rightful historical claims, and its security needs.

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More about: Europe and Israel, European Union, Israel & Zionism, Palestinians