SUN 12 - 7 - 2020
Date: Jun 24, 2020
Source: The Daily Star
More US sanctions will target Hezbollah: Schenker
BEIRUT: The US is seeking to impose new sanctions aimed at combating Hezbollah, as well as corruption in Lebanon, the US Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs David Schenker said in an interview with Lebanese media Tuesday.

Accusing Hezbollah of attempting to “acquire the Lebanese financial system,” Schenker stressed in an interview with Al-Hadeel, published in Arabic, that the group posed a “complete threat to Lebanon at a time when the country cannot tolerate any additional crisis.”

As a result, Schenker stressed that Lebanon needed to “make difficult decisions that change the way the country is run,” accentuating further that Hezbollah “is not an organization that seeks reform, but rather one that lives on corruption.”

“[The US] repeats the call for the Lebanese government to undertake serious reforms and fight corruption ... but [Lebanon] has not made any serious attempt yet to do so,” Schenker said.

“We know that Hezbollah will not abide by any of these steps, but we still hope that the government will fulfil its obligations,” Schenker added.

Responding to allegations made by Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah last week that the US was preventing the transfer of dollars into the Lebanese economy, Schenker said such accusations were “woven from the imagination” and that instead the problem was “corruption, the smuggling of dollars to Syria, and tax evasion by Hezbollah.”

Schenker also noted Tuesday that Nasrallah’s calls for Lebanon to “look east” toward China in order to mend the country's ailing economy were “shocking,” and that Lebanon needed to resist falling into such a “trap".

“We all see how China seeks to acquire any country that fails to pay its debt dues,” he said, highlighting an infamous case in 2017 where Sri Lanka was forced to grant China a 99-year lease over its port after failing to pay back its debts.

“How much did China provide Lebanon to help counter the coronavirus? The United States provided $25 million in aid to Lebanon to tackle it ... What did China provide?” Schenker added.

In relation to recent Israeli incursions into Lebanese airspace, Schenker repeated allegations that Hezbollah was not allowing UNIFIL troops to enter many of de-facto areas of control in southern Lebanon, stressing that “we would not have witnessed these flights” otherwise.

Despite this, Schenker accentuated that the United States remained commited to supporting the Lebanese Armed Forces, and that they would continue to provide the necessary assistance.

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