Sources: Hezbollah Increases Control Over Lebanese Banks

Article Summary
Israeli sources say that faltering support from Iran and Syria is prompting Hezbollah to tighten its grip on the Lebanese economy — evidently with success. The organization has had a hard time in its search for new sources of funding as Washington takes steps to dry up Hezbollah’s financial resources. Itamar Eichner reports.

Hezbollah "conquered" six out of nine commercial banks in Lebanon, and they are still going strong, according to political sources in Israel.

As a result of the decrease in financial aid from Iran and the unstable situation in Syria, the Hezbollah terrorist organization is tightening its control over the Lebanese economy and its governmental institutions — evidently with success. According to Israeli sources, in addition to Hezbollah’s takeover of commercial banks in Beirut, they have also succeeded in enlarging their influence over Lebanon’s central bank and Lebanese tax authorities via placing their people in key positions.

Israel claims that while Hezbollah is still financially dependent on Syrian President Bashar Assad, the organization has started to prepare for the "day after" the fall of Assad’s regime. In addition, the organization’s heads realize that they cannot rely on continued support from Iran, at least not at the level to which they were accustomed in the past. While annual Iranian support in previous years was about $200-300 million, the money transfer has decreased since the beginning of international sanctions against Tehran.

Aside from Hezbollah’s financial conquests in Lebanon, the organization has had a hard time in its search for new sources of funding. At the end of 2011, federal courts in the United States began legal proceedings against several Lebanese financial institutions with charges of money-laundering Hezbollah’s proceeds from narcotics trafficking in Latin America and from its international automobile trade.

Washington has been taking steps for some time to dry up Hezbollah’s financial resources, and the success of this initiative could cause significant harm to the organization. However, Israeli political sources point to the fact that Hezbollah is not included on the European Union’s terrorist list, and this is a very problematic weak point. Israel’s attempts to change this situation were subverted in the past by France. Now Israel and the United States are trying to cause the EU to formulate rules for activities to be carried out against financial institutions that exploit Europe as a base for criminal activities whose proceeds fill Hezbollah coffers.

However, the diplomatic-financial struggle is not enough to alleviate Israeli concerns regarding the post-Assad scenario, in which chemical and/or biological weapons and antiaircraft missiles are likely to fall into the hands of radical groups — especially Hezbollah. According to Israeli assessments, the Lebanese terrorist organization already owns about 45,000 missiles — three times as many as it possessed on the eve of the Second Lebanon War.  

Found in: lebanon, israel, hezbollah

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