The US Treasury Department Wednesday announced sanctions on a Hezbollah financial network based in the Arabian Peninsula, with support from Qatar.
In the release, the US government noted that it designated these individuals and entities in “coordinated actions” with Qatar.
Among the designations were Ali Reda Hassan al-Banai (Ali al-Banai), Ali Reda al-Qassabi Lari, and Abd al-Muayyid al-Bani. They were all sanctioned as Specially Designated Global Terrorists under Executive Order 13224 for having materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, or technological support for, or goods or services to or in support of, Hezbollah. The US government sanctioned the Iran-backed Party of God as a Foreign Terrorist Organization in 1997 and as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist in 2001.
The US Treasury Department revealed that Ali al-Banai and Lari “have secretly sent tens of millions of dollars” to Hezbollah “through the formal financial system and cash couriers.” It documented how both men met with Hezbollah officials during their trips to Lebanon and Iran. One particularly noteworthy finding by the US Treasury Department was that Ali al-Banai started contributing to Hezbollah through a Kuwait-based branch of the Martyrs Foundation, which is an Iranian parastatal organization that Tehran uses to finance its proxies and partners throughout the Middle East.
Additional targets included Abd al-Rahman Abd al-Nabi Shams, Yahya Muhammad al-Abd-al-Muhsin, Majidi Fa’iz al-Ustadz, and Sulaiman al-Banai, who were also sanctioned under Executive Order 13224 for providing services to Ali al-Banai. Likewise, Qatar-based AlDar Properties was sanctioned for being owned, controlled, or directed by, directly or indirectly, Sulaiman al-Banai.
Today’s sanctions designations are significant for two reasons. The first concerns the recent Iranian shipments of fuel, arranged by Hezbollah, to Lebanon. The fuel has been allowed to transit through Syria without incident, despite likely sanctions violations. Thus, the US government is signaling its readiness to crack down on Hezbollah’s broader financial networks even while appearing to turn a blind eye to the Iranian fuel being trucked across Syria into Lebanon. Indeed, this is the second time in September alone the US government has levied sanctions targeting Hezbollah. Such timing is not a coincidence given the broader fuel exchange underway with Tehran.
Second, Qatar’s role here is important, given charges that it is a permissive environment for terrorist financing. In recent months, the Israeli government reportedly provided intelligence to Washington that Doha was funding Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). Qatar, a longtime partner of the United States, thus may have taken a parallel action against this Hezbollah network to buy goodwill in the United States in thwarting this illicit activity.