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Opinion

Cut off Hezbollah's lifeline to international financing

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Opinion,Op-Eds,Terrorism,Hezbollah,Drug Cartels,House Foreign Affairs

For too long Hezbollah has been able to conduct its illegal operations unhindered by the threat of a direct response from the United States.

The jihadist group originally established by Iran has expanded its reach and shifted its strategy to operate in virtually every corner of the world including Latin America and Europe.

Designated as a terrorist organization by the U.S. in 1995, Hezbollah is responsible for the largest number of American deaths overseas by a terrorist organization second only to al Qaeda. Its deadly global reach has included bombing U.S. targets in Lebanon during the 1980s, Israeli and Jewish targets in Argentina in the 1990s, and recent attacks in Europe and Southeast Asia.

Other than direct donations, a significant portion of Hezbollah’s profits are earned through drug trafficking in Latin America and worldwide. In 2011, the U.S. government seized hundreds of millions of dollars in drug profits linked to Hezbollah. The group also relies on a series of front companies to fund its global terrorist activities.

Hezbollah is notorious for using charities and front organizations to hide its funding sources. The Al-Aqsa International Foundation, for example, is a known front organization for Hamas with ties to Hezbollah that has been blocked from participating in financial markets by the U.S., Germany and Great Britain. The Al-Mabarrat Charity Association is another example of an identified charity that funnels money to Hezbollah’s terrorist activities. There are numerous other such organizations worldwide, including here in the U.S.

This financial network is Hezbollah’s Achilles’ heel. Knowing this, I am working with the House Foreign Affairs Committee to advance legislation to block Hezbollah’s access to these resources.

On Monday, I introduced the first-ever legislation that simultaneously goes after Hezbollah’s criminal component and terrorist operation, along with my colleagues House Foreign Affairs Chairman Ed Royce, R-Calif., ranking Democrat Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., and Rep. Brad Schneider, D-Ill.

The Hezbollah International Financing Prevention Act (H.R. 4411) broadens financial sanctions against the group, targets its propaganda television station al-Manar, and urges the president to define Hezbollah as a "global drug kingpin," giving the administration another weapon to cripple Hezbollah’s operations. The bill also codifies into law the policy of the United States to prevent Hezbollah’s global logistics and financial network from operating.

This legislation requires individuals and entities that knowingly do business with Hezbollah to cease or be frozen out of U.S. financial operations. We must send the message to these individuals that as long as they continue to knowingly do business with Hezbollah, they are as culpable for attacks against innocent civilians as the terrorist group itself.

Additionally, this legislation requires the president to report to Congress within 30 days of the bill's enactment to determine whether Hezbollah meets the criteria to be designated a Significant Foreign Narcotics Trafficker as well as a Transnational Criminal Organization. These two important classifications will ensure that Hezbollah and its associates are denied access to the U.S. financial system.

Both of these designations would significantly undermine Hezbollah’s attempts to brand itself as a charitable and political organization, while empowering U.S. law enforcement agencies to counter Hezbollah’s criminal enterprises.

Hezbollah poses a great threat to the world—and particularly to our great ally, Israel.

It is time to take a stand against the threat Hezbollah poses to the United States and its allies. By cutting off Hezbollah’s lifelines to international financing, we can break its cycle of violence around the world.

Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., serves on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Thinking of submitting an op-ed to the Washington Examiner? Be sure to read our guidelines on submissions for editorials, available at this link.
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