Exclusive - ‘Hezbollah’ Prepares to Contain Repercussions of US Sanctions against Iran

Exclusive - ‘Hezbollah’ Prepares to Contain Repercussions of US Sanctions against Iran

Sunday, 26 August, 2018 - 07:45
A general view of Beirut, Lebanon. (Reuters)
Beirut - Paula Astih
The new re-imposed US sanctions against Iran are acting as a new source of pressure on the Lebanese “Hezbollah” party, which is already suffering from sanctions imposed by Washington and the Arab Gulf states.

The most recent of these sanctions, revealed in July, placed for the first time the names of “Hezbollah” political leaders on terrorism blacklists.

The party has sought in the past few months to take the necessary measures to “contain” the repercussions of the new Iran sanctions, which were imposed after US President Donald Trump withdrew in May from the 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran.

Despite its measures, the sanctions will likely affect the party and even the whole of Lebanon’s economy.

Director of the Levant Institute for Strategic Affairs, Dr. Sami Nader said that “Hezbollah” will suffer direct consequences from the sanctions because it is part of the Iranian system.

Moreover, he explained that the sanctions will not only affect “Hezbollah”, but Lebanon as well.

“All the sanctions that have been directly imposed on ‘Hezbollah’ and Iran have increased pressure on the business environment in Lebanon,” he told Asharq Al-Awsat.

“They have also limited our room to maneuver,” he stated.

“We are already suffering from a severe economic crisis. The side effects of the latest sanctions will automatically affect us because we are in the eye of the storm,” Nader went on to say. “This will only exacerbate the economic crisis.”

He compared the situation in Lebanon to the one suffered by Turkey. Ankara was already suffering a deteriorating economy and its political crisis with Washington only compounded it, he remarked.

“As long as ‘Hezbollah’ remains so entrenched in Lebanon’s social and economic fabric, then it will it be very difficult to say that the sanctions will only be limited to a few members of the party,” Nader noted.

“The repercussions will reach the whole of Lebanon, which was supposed to be giving out positive signals to investors. Unfortunately, we are moving in the opposite direction,” he lamented.

The sanctions that were re-imposed on August 6 target Iran’s purchases of US dollars, metals trading and other dealings, coal, industrial-related software and its auto sector.

A second batch of sanctions will take effect on November 4 and target Tehran’s oil shipments and banking sector.

“Hezbollah” expert Qassem Qassir, meanwhile, ruled out the possibility that the Iran sanctions would directly affect the party.

He explained that the party, as well as Iran, have been taken measures to contain the sanctions and accommodate to the new reality.

He told Asharq Al-Awsat that the sanctions will definitely harm finances, but as long as “Hezbollah” and Iran continue to avoid relying on the global banking system, then the penalties will have a limited impact.

He noted that Iran had grown accustomed to 30 years worth of sanctions and it managed with “Hezbollah” to find alternate channels to avert them.

“So far, the sanctions have impacted Iran’s internal economic scene. They have not yet forced Tehran to alter its policies or external support for its allies,” Qassir said.

“We do not know, however, what may happen on the long-term,” he added.

“Hezbollah’s” precautions to avoid the impact of the sanctions mainly included reorganizing internal financial structures and securing various sources of funding, he revealed.

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