Lebanese MPs warn Hezbollah over US sanctions

Lebanese MPs warn Hezbollah over US sanctions
It is known that Hezbollah has long been involved in the war in Syria and maintains military bases and training centers inside Syrian territories near the border with Lebanon. (AFP)
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Updated 27 May 2020

Lebanese MPs warn Hezbollah over US sanctions

Lebanese MPs warn Hezbollah over US sanctions

BEIRUT: Political forces in Lebanon have renewed pressure on the Iranian-backed Hezbollah to reform or face the US imposition of the Caesar Act, which could prove catastrophic for the country.

Lebanese political circles are abuzz with debate over Hezbollah’s involvement in Syria and the likelihood of the imposition of the Caesar Act, which calls for biting sanctions on the Assad regime and its supporters.

Mouaz Mustafa, who is a member of the Caesar Act team, recently said that prominent political figures in Lebanon were likely to be targeted alongside Hezbollah because the goal of the sanctions was to reach all people who had any kind of agreements with the Syrian regime.

Lebanese politicians are not taking this matter lightly as is evident from their statements calling for an end to smuggling along the Syria-Lebanon border and for Hezbollah to be disarmed.

Gebran Bassil, leader of the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM), recently blamed “de facto forces” for the illegal smuggling along the borders in an apparent dig at the powerful military outfit.

It is known that Hezbollah has long been involved in the war in Syria and maintains military bases and training centers inside Syrian territories near the border with Lebanon. Diesel and flour smuggling is carried out through illegal crossings from Lebanon to Syria.

In a strongly worded message, FPM MP Ziad Aswad said: “We cannot go on holding weapons while our people are hungry.”

Aswad warned Hezbollah that “the price of its weapons is paid by all Lebanese.”

The most obvious position on American messages reaching Lebanese parties came through the admission of Aswad that “the Americans’ decision is necessary to disarm the (Hezbollah) party, or else manage yourself, Lebanese.”

This unprecedented stance of the FPM against Hezbollah coincided with a political campaign by the Iranian-backed group’s opponents against the illegal crossings.

Lebanese security forces have stepped up measures to prevent cross-border smuggling with the Lebanese Army arresting several smugglers and closing five illegal crossings.

The forces also removed bridges in Lebanese border villages and the town of Hermel and closed dirt roads. One of these roads passes through the Orontes River Basin up to the Syrian border.

Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah responded to calls to deploy the army and UN forces on the border with Syria by asserting that Lebanon “cannot control the situation alone because the borders are overlapping and the matter is complicated. The solution is a bilateral cooperation between the two governments
and armies.”

Former Minister May Chidiac said: “We have to wait to know the details of the (Caesar) Act and the regulations that will be covered by the sanctions because it is not clear yet.”

 Chidiac told Arab News that “the American officials responsible for Lebanon stress the necessity of closing the illegal crossings and combating customs smuggling.”

The aim is to dry up the channels that support Hezbollah’s statelet in Lebanon, and the American conditions can be monitored during Lebanon’s negotiations with the International Monetary Fund regarding its financial crisis.”

Chidiac added: “Lebanon is no longer a priority for the Americans. There is a shifting of cards in the region due to the sharing of Russian and Iranian influence in Syria. What is incomprehensible is Hezbollah’s refusal to deploy UNIFIL forces on the eastern border of Lebanon with Syria, even though it accepted its deployment the Resolution 1701 to reinforce the role of UNIFIL on the southern border of Lebanon.”

The former Ambassador for Lebanon to the US Dr. Riyad Tabbara said that “the US … is sending messages regarding dealings with Hezbollah.”

Tabbara told Arab News that “The Caesar Act has opened the door for US President Donald Trump to choose whoever he wanted for sanctions. The phrase ‘everyone who cooperates with Hezbollah’ is flexible and allows for the expansion of targeting and pressure.”

Tabbara said that the Americans “do not want to ruin Lebanon, but rather to pressure Hezbollah.”

He added that “the FPM’s stance indicates that the movement has received American messages, but it is trying to persuade Washington that it can play an effective role on the issue of Hezbollah.”

Regarding illegal crossings, Tabbara said that pressure from Washington on their closure is incessant and does not involve the Caesar Act: “Rather, these pressures may help influence Hezbollah.”

Former MP Faris Saeed said that the “Caesar Act will have a significant impact on Lebanon in terms of preventing the export of any commodity to the Syrian regime under the threat of prosecution and sanctions, and therefore what goes from Lebanon to Syria will be a violation of the international law. Whoever tries to persuade the Lebanese to invest in Syria is mistaken.”

 


Yemen’s government vows to mitigate effects of Houthi terrorism designation

Yemen’s government vows to mitigate effects of Houthi terrorism designation
A military vehicle is stationed on the tarmac of Yemen’s Aden airport. Yemen says the Stockholm Agreement has failed to bring peace to the country. (File/AFP)
Updated 15 min 31 sec ago

Yemen’s government vows to mitigate effects of Houthi terrorism designation

Yemen’s government vows to mitigate effects of Houthi terrorism designation
  • International community urged not to surrender to ‘blackmailing and intimidation’ 
  • Stockholm Agreement has failed to bring peace, Yemen PM said

AL-MUKALLA: Yemen’s prime minister has vowed to address any impact on humanitarian assistance or the remittances of citizens abroad following the US move to designate the Iran-backed Houthis as a terrorist organization.

Maeen Abdul Malik Saeed also urged the international community not to surrender to “Houthi blackmailing” and intimidation.
Saeed defended his government’s strong support of the designation during a virtual interview with foreign journalists sponsored by the Sanaa Center for Strategic Studies.
He said that his government had formed a committee to handle any effects on the delivery of humanitarian assistance inside Houthi-controlled areas and the remittances of Yemenis abroad.
“We are determined to prevent any impact of the decision on the Yemenis. We have formed a committee to mitigate effects of the decision,” he said.
When the US announced its intention to designate the Houthi movement as a terrorist organization last week, Yemen’s government quickly urged the US administration to put the decision in place, predicting it would stop Houthi crimes and their looting of humanitarian assistance, and would smoothe the way for peace.
Referring to the impact of the US designation on peace talks between the Yemeni government and the Houthis, Saeed said that the decision would not undermine peace efforts. He said that the Houthis would be accepted as part of the Yemeni political and social spectrum when they abandoned hard-line ideologies and embraced equality and justice.

The Yemeni government agreed to go to Stockholm for reaching a solution to stop fighting and saving the city. This model has failed.

Maeen Abdul Malik Saeed, Yemen’s prime minister

“This is an important pressure card on them and a real definition of them,” he said, adding that the Yemenis would not allow the Houthi movement to rule them.
“Yemen would not be ruled by a racist and terrorist group,” he said.
Formed under the Riyadh Agreement, Yemen’s new government’s ministers narrowly escaped death on Dec. 30 when three precision-guided missiles ripped through Aden airport shortly after their plane touched down.
The government accused the Houthis of staging the attack, saying that missile fragments collected from the airport showed that they were similar to missiles that targeted Marib city in the past.
The prime minister said that the Yemeni government had offered many concessions to reach an agreement to end the war. It had agreed to engage in direct talks with the Houthis in Stockholm in 2018 despite the fact that the Yemeni government forces were about to seize control of the Red Sea city of Hodeidah. However, the Stockholm Agreement had failed to bring peace to Yemen, he said.
“The government forces were about to capture the city within five days maximum. The Yemeni government agreed to go to Stockholm for reaching a solution to stop fighting and saving the city. This model has failed,” Saeed said.
In Riyadh, Yemen’s president Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi on Friday appointed Ahmed Obeid bin Daghar, a former prime minister and a senior adviser to the president, as president of the Shoura Council.
Hadi also appointed Ahmed Ahmed Al-Mousai as the country’s new attorney general.
Fighting continues
Heavy fighting between Yemeni government forces and the Houthis broke out on Sunday for the third consecutive day in contested areas in the districts of Hays and Durihimi in the western province of Hodeidah. Official media said that dozens of Houthi rebels and several government troops were killed in the fighting and loyalists pushed back three assaults by Houthis in Durihimi district.
In neighboring Hays, the Joint Forces media said on Sunday that the Houthis hit government forces with heavy weapons before launching a ground attack in an attempt to seize control of new areas in the district.
The Houthis failed to make any gains and lost dozens of fighters along with several military vehicles that were burnt in the fighting, the same media outlets said. Heavy artillery shelling and land mines planted by the Houthis have killed more than 500 civilians since late 2018, local rights groups said.