SUPPORTERS OF Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah display Hezbollah and Lebanese flags in Baalbek, Bekaa valley in eastern Lebanon in August last year. (Hassan Abdallah/Reuters).
(photo credit: HASSAN ABDALLAH / REUTERS)
WASHINGTON – Two House Republicans have proposed a bill that would encourage US President Donald Trump to designate Hezbollah a significant narcotics trafficker, a move that would allow the Treasury Department to more aggressively target the Lebanese organization’s finances.
Congressmen Ted Budd of North Carolina and Lee Zeldin of New York introduced the Hezbollah Kingpin Designation Act earlier this month, citing evidence published in a recent Politico report of their robust narcotics operation as tracked by the US government’s Operation Cassandra over the course of the last decade. The bill would list Hezbollah under the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act of 1999.
The Kingpin Act allows Treasury to prohibit all trade and transactions between drug traffickers and US companies and individuals.
The Trump administration has already expressed interest in targeting the group – designated by Israel, the EU and the US as a terrorist organization – over its illicit drug scheme. Attorney-General Jeff Sessions announced the creation of a team assigned to combat Hezbollah’s drug-trafficking operations last month, and earlier in February, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin announced new sanctions on six people and seven businesses associated with Hezbollah, in what he characterized as the “first wave” of many sanctions announcements to come.
“We will be relentless in identifying, exposing, and dismantling Hezbollah’s financial support networks globally,” Mnuchin said.
The bill would require the president to determine whether to designate Hezbollah as a drug kingpin within 120 days of its passage in Congress.