New sanctions on Hezbollah ‘unfair’ to Lebanon as a whole

This July 29, 2017 photo, Hezbollah fighters stand near a four-wheel motorcycle positioned at the site where clashes erupted between Hezbollah and al-Qaida-linked fighters in Wadi al-Kheil or al-Kheil Valley in the Lebanon-Syria border. (AP)
Updated 01 October 2017
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New sanctions on Hezbollah ‘unfair’ to Lebanon as a whole

BEIRUT: New US sanctions on Hezbollah would end up having wider repercussions on Lebanon, and are therefore “unfair” to the country as a whole, politicians and economists have said.
Members of the US House of Representatives Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday voted in favor of two draft laws on Hezbollah, which is listed by the US as a foreign terrorist organization.
The first restricts Hezbollah’s ability to fundraise and have access to the international financial system; the second condemns Hezbollah for using civilians as human shields during warfare.
The two bills are expected to receive bipartisan support when they reach the US House, according to press reports.
Louis Hobeika, a Lebanese economist and university professor, said that the “act is unfair to Lebanon.”
Hobeika added: “The United States is determined to discard facts and insists on punishing Hezbollah even though Lebanon tried its best to prove it is fighting terrorism. Apparently, this is an internal US problem and Lebanon is being used as a tool to let off steam.”
“These sanctions will negatively impact investments in Lebanon as well as the banks. We will waste so much time trying to prove to the US that Lebanon is innocent — which is the truth — at a time when the US insists on deeming us guilty,” Hobeika explained.
Sources in a Lebanese delegation that visited Washington last July and met with members of Congress said that they had aimed to mitigate the damage to Lebanon, especially when a sanctions act had been previously passed in 2015 and is currently being strictly imposed.
The Lebanese delegation sought to exclude sanctions on the second party clients. The new draft act includes sanctions on anyone who receives a salary from Hezbollah, which could have wide repercussions on Lebanon’s economy. This is expected to get amended to impose sanctions directly on concerned individuals and firms found to be involved in financing Hezbollah.
In addition to freezing assets and preventing banks and financial institutions from dealing with individuals or institutions included in the sanctions, the act also prohibits the issuance of US visas to those involved. Moreover, the act imposes sanctions on non-Lebanese countries and bodies if found guilty of supporting Hezbollah, whether financially or economically through investments.
“Our message back then was clear: What you are doing is pressuring Lebanon and hurting its economy as well as its stability even though you insist you care for the country and support the Lebanese army,” a source in the Lebanese delegation said.
“Expatriate remittances to Lebanon are key for financing the country’s economy, and these sanctions mean that there will be unnecessary scrutiny that will lead to a downturn in the cash inflow.
“During our visit to Washington, Congress listened to the Lebanese concerns, understood them and said that the sanctions would target individuals who are breaching the public financial system or those with suspicious financial transactions, and, most likely, the Foreign Relations Committee delayed passing these sanctions after reviewing them in the light of what they heard from us.”
“The Lebanese Parliament passed financial laws that comply with international standards on trans-border cash movements, and the Central Bank is keen on abiding by these laws which were approved by the US Treasury, which in turn described Lebanon’s compliance with international standards on many occasion as ‘amazing’.”
Sources in the Lebanese delegation to Congress added, “What we heard back then was that a group of congressmen were lobbying in support of tightening sanctions on Hezbollah, and we know how active the Israeli lobby is, but Lebanon is fighting terrorism and combating money laundering and the smuggling of antiquities, which is documented by the US.”
The sources also pointed out that “the amendments included names of Hezbollah officials targeted by the sanctions, but did this really require the passing of a new act? Congress had no answer for this question, and we believe this has to do with the administration of the US President Donald Trump, which has issued warnings to Iran but couldn’t do anything beyond these threats, and this makes Lebanon a consolation prize with regard to internal US bargains. The Hezbollah International Financing Prevention Amendments Act of 2017 may be passed either within a month or by the end of this year.”
Lebanese MP Yassin Jaber said the new sanctions would negatively affect his image and the banking sector. He also explained that he fears the US president would further amend the act because he has the power to do so. “We must wait for the final decision to assess the damage it’ll cause Lebanon,” he said. “In my opinion, Lebanon will not be capable of bearing these sanctions.”


Arab women are on the march … straight into the heart of government

The appointment of the women ministers may help to assuage disappointment about the make-up of the rest of the — all male — Cabinet.
Updated 13 min 54 sec ago
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Arab women are on the march … straight into the heart of government

  • Recent appointments in Egypt are the latest example of the rise of women to high political office in the region
  • “The men’s monopoly has been broken,” the Jordanian National Commission for Women declared in a celebratory statement which also praised the prime minister’s “clear position”

CAIRO, LONDON: The appointment of two more female ministers this month to the new Egyptian Cabinet means women now fill eight out of 34 positions, the highest number in the modern history of Egypt.

Hala Zayed is the new health minister while Yasmine Fouad takes over as environment minister. Both women replaced men and join culture minister Inas Abdel-Dayem, tourism minister Rania Al-Mashat, Nabila Makram (immigration minister) Ghada Wali (social solidarity minister), Hala El-Saeed (planning minister) and Sahar Nasr (minister of investment and international cooperation).
The appointments by Egypt’s new Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly have been welcomed as forward thinking by social and political commentators.
Dr. Magda Bagnied, a writer and professor of communication, told Arab News: “I believe whoever planned for those eight effective ministries was looking forward for the future of Egypt since they are all interconnected in some way, and having females leading them is a leap forward.
“A country’s rank and status is measured by the role of women. The higher the number of leadership roles for women, the further the country is considered to be on the road to development.”
Four out of 15 new deputy ministers are also women and women now hold 15 percent of the seats in Parliament.
The rise of women to high political office in the Arab world is by no means restricted to Egypt.
Jordan also has a record number of women ministers after Prime Minister-designate Omar Razzaz appointed seven women to the 29-member Cabinet sworn in last week.
“The men’s monopoly has been broken,” the Jordanian National Commission for Women declared in a celebratory statement which also praised the prime minister’s “clear position.”
The appointment of the women ministers may help to assuage disappointment about the make-up of the rest of the — all male — Cabinet.
Twenty-three members of the new Jordanian Cabinet have been ministers before and 13 were members of the outgoing government that was brought down by popular protest.
Rawan Joyoussi, whose posters became one of the defining images of the protests, said: “I was hoping that women would be empowered and I am happy with that. But as far as the composition of the rest of the government is concerned, I think we have to play our part to create the mechanisms that will hold the government accountable.”
In the UAE, women hold nine out of 31 ministerial positions, and one of them, Minister for Youth Shamma Al-Mazrui, is also the world’s youngest minister, appointed in 2016 when she was only 22.
This makes the UAE Cabinet nearly 30 percent female, which is higher than India, almost equal to the UK and far ahead of the US, where Donald Trump has just four women in his Cabinet.
The general election in Morocco in October 2016 produced 81 women members of Parliament, accounting for 21 percent of the total 395 seats. The Islamist Justice and Development Party (PJD), which won the most votes, also ended up with the highest number of women MPs, 18.
Though elections in Saudi Arabia were open to women only in 2015, it ranks 100th out of 193rd in the world league table of women in national governing bodies, slightly above the US at 102nd place.
A policy briefing from the Brookings Institution think-tank in Washington says that one of the best ways for a country to ease economic pressure and boost productivity is to increase female participation in the workplace and in political life.
“Introducing diversity through gender parity will benefit economic growth and can help Arab countries to generate prosperity as well as the normative and social imperative of change,” wrote analyst Bessma Momani.
Yet in some parts of the Middle East, female representation seems to be going backward.
In 2009, four of Kuwait’s 65 MPs were women. In 2012 there were three and in 2013 only one. In 2016, 15 women stood for election to the 50 open parliamentary seats (the other 15 are appointed). Only one, Safa Al-Hashem, who was already an MP, was successful.
Qatar has no women MPs or ministers at all.
Egypt’s appointment of two more women ministers does not have the appearance of tokenism. The new Health Minister, Hala Zayed, 51, has a solid background in the field as a former president of the Academy of Health Sciences, a hospital specializing in cancer treatment for children.
She was also government adviser on health, chairwoman of a committee for combating corruption at the ministry she now heads and also has a Ph.d. in project management.
Similarly, Yasmeen Fouad, 43, the new environment minister, has four years’ experience as a former assistant minister in the same department, where she was known as “the lady for difficult missions,” and liaised with the UN. She is also an assistant professor of economics and political science at Cairo University.
Egypt’s first female minister was Hikmat Abu Zaid, appointed minister of social affairs in 1962 by President Gamal Abdel Nasser, who dubbed her “the merciful heart of revolution.”
Now there are eight like her, demonstrating that in the Middle East, “girl power” is on the rise.