Last week, U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee member Marco Rubio, R-Fla., cheered the Trump administration’s latest efforts against Hezbollah.
On Thursday, the Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) sanctioned Jammal Trust Bank SAL (Jammal Trust), a Lebanon-based company with financial ties to Hezbollah. OFAC also sanctioned some of Jammal Trust’s subsidiaries including Trust Insurance S.A.L., Trust Insurance Services S.A.L., and Trust Life Insurance Company S.A.L. The U.S. has recognized Hezbollah, which has the support of the Iranian regime, as a terrorist organization since 1997.
“Treasury is targeting Jammal Trust Bank and its subsidiaries for brazenly enabling Hezbollah’s financial activities. Corrupt financial institutions like Jammal Trust are a direct threat to the integrity of the Lebanese financial system. Jammal Trust provides support and services to Hezbollah’s Executive Council and the Martyrs Foundation, which funnels money to the families of suicide bombers,” said U.S. Under Treasury Sec. for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Sigal Mandelker. “The U.S. will continue to work with the Central Bank of Lebanon to deny Hezbollah access to the international financial system. This action is a warning to all who provide services to this terrorist group.”
Rubio weighed in on after the Treasury’s announcement and applauded the new sanctions.
“The Treasury Department’s sanctions against Jammal Trust Bank put on notice all foreign financial institutions that enable Iran-backed Hezbollah and its activities,” Rubio said. “I thank the administration for its actions today to counter Hezbollah, and I urge it to continue fully enforcing the sanctions laws that I authored to combat Hezbollah’s terrorist financing.”
“The Treasury Department’s new sanctions against Hezbollah operatives reaffirm America’s strong commitment to countering Iran-backed Hezbollah, a terrorist group that poses grave dangers to the U.S., Israel, and other allies,” Rubio said after that round of sanctions. “It’s critical for the U.S. to hold accountable Hezbollah terrorists and their enablers, who not only continue to threaten the security and stability of Lebanon, Israel, and the wider Middle East, but also are responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Americans, including the 241 Americans murdered in the Beirut Marine Barracks bombing on October 23, 1983.”
Back in July 2017, Rubio and U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-NH, both of whom serve on the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, unveiled the “Hezbollah International Financing Prevention Amendments Act.” The bill, which was also championed by U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Id., the chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, would expand sanctions created by the Hezbollah International Financing Prevention Act" which Rubio and Shaheen brought out back in 2015, targeting companies that provide financial, technological and other help to Hezbollah or help with its fundraising and recruiting. The proposal also requires the White House to report to Congress whether financial institutes in Iran and other state sponsors of terrorism are helping Hezbollah.
President Donald Trump signed the bill into law back in October and Rubio weighed in on the new law.
“Iranian-backed Hezbollah terrorists are responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Americans, including the 241 Americans murdered in the Beirut Marine Barracks bombing on October 23, 1983, and they continue to pose grave dangers to the United States, Israel, and other allies. The Hezbollah International Financing Prevention Amendments Act is another important step in strengthening international efforts to combat Hezbollah’s terrorist and missile threats,” Rubio said. “I thank President Trump for signing my Hezbollah sanctions bill into law, and for welcoming relatives of the Beirut Marines to the White House today to honor the ultimate sacrifice that these U.S. servicemembers made 35 years ago. As Beirut Marine families seek justice in U.S. courts against those responsible for this heinous attack, I urge the administration, through the Solicitor General, to tell the U.S. Supreme Court that it opposes the Iranian terrorist regime’s request to overturn a federal appeals court decision preventing $1.7 billion in frozen assets from returning to the Central Bank of Iran.”
Over on the House side, U.S. Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif., the chairman of the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee, and U.S. Rep. Eliot Engel, D-NY, the ranking Democrat on the committee, brought a similar bill through the House. Most members of the Florida delegation cosponsored the bill. Royce and Engel worked with Rubio and Shaheen to craft the 2015 sanctions legislation.
Rubio and Shaheen have worked against Hezbollah before. Their 2015 legislation imposed sanctions on businesses and banks that knowingly work with Hezbollah and its affiliates including the al-Manar Hezbollah television station. That legislation also directed the president to report to Congress on Hezbollah’s efforts and what the U.S. government is doing to fight that terrorist group. The bill was sponsored in the House by Royce, with U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, now the chairman of the U.S. House Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee, as a key co-sponsor. In 2014, Rubio and Shaheen brought out a resolution urging the EU to recognize Hezbollah as a terrorist organization.