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Monday, 20 June 2016

Lebanon’s Hot Summer

Amid the soaring summer temperatures, Lebanon is feeling the heat. But it is not just the warm weather that has the Lebanese sweating.
Blom bank bomb attack
A bomb explosion targeting the headquarters of Lebanon’s BLOM Bank in central Beirut last week came against the backdrop of the implementation of the Hizbullah International Financing Prevention Act (HIFPA). The 2015 US law calls for sanctions against any party found to be financially supporting or conducting business with the Lebanese group.
The legislation, which was passed by the US House of Representatives and Senate before being signed into law by President Barack Obama late last year, has sparked unrest in Beirut. Lebanon’s financial authorities chose to apply the HIFPA under the threat of being excluded from the international banking system, naturally resulting in a heightening of tensions with Hizbullah itself.
Critics of the resistance group were, of course, quick to point at Hizbullah when it came to assigning blame for the latest bombing in the Lebanese capital, which inflicted heavy material damage but fortunately caused no deaths.
However, contrary to these unsubstantiated assertions, as well as a statement by Lebanese Interior Minister Nohad Machnouk that “the target was BLOM Bank only,” the Beirut bombing was part of an ongoing attack on the Resistance group and the whole of Lebanon.
According to Lebanon’s former Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Elie Ferzli, “the immediate conclusion of the [BLOM Bank] explosion is that several external players involved themselves in the current crisis in order to make people think that Hizbullah is behind this attack. This is meant to drag Lebanon into further strife and sedition, and to turn public opinion against it.”

Sanctioning the Lebanese
The implementation of the HIFPA coincided with a string of measures adopted by the US and their allies – namely the Gulf Arab monarchies – against Hizbullah and Lebanon as a whole.
Earlier this year, Riyadh led a chorus of Arab states in designating Hizbullah – a legitimate political force in Lebanon’s governing bloc – as a ‘terrorist’ organization, while sanctioning the country’s national army and an economy already gasping under the weight of more than a million Syrian refugees.
The banking sector, described as a ‘fundamental dynamo’ of the Lebanese economy and the only remaining effective pillar of the state, is vitally important to Lebanon as a conduit for billions of dollars of annual remittances that keep its economy afloat.
But the introduction of the HIFPA effectively prevents Lebanese citizens from exercising their banking rights as a sovereign matter.
Lebanon’s Central Bank Governor, Riad Salameh, who quickly gave in to US pressure, told the American CNBC network in a June 8 interview that, “100 Hizbullah-related accounts had already been frozen.”
Sources familiar with the matter, however, told Reuters that it is actually hospitals, schools and other social institutions linked to the party that are being targeted by the new measures. By virtue of their work, all of these institutions deal with Lebanese government ministries.
Essentially, the Lebanese state, already overwhelmed by external pressure and subversion, is being threatened with complete collapse if it continues to refuse a confrontation with Hizbullah.
In a legislative agenda document, the ‘American “Israel” Public Affairs Committee’ (AIPAC) highlights the importance of the HIFPA.
“The important measure will force foreign financial institutions to choose between doing business with Hizbullah or the United States,” the Zionist-lobby document reads.
Ferzli believes that,
“financial punishments and sanctions are not simple and naive things. The source of the sanctions is the Zionist lobby in the US, which has a central role in the US Senate in producing laws. The [US] sanctions coincided with the classification of Hizbullah as a ‘terrorist’ organization regionally. These two factors are aimed at diminishing the image of Hizbullah in the eyes of the Lebanese and disrupting its relationship with its support base. It may also lead to confusing Hizbullah into military action and lay the groundwork for a military operation by the “Israelis”.”
In the days leading up to Sunday’s bombing in Beirut, countries known to have coordinated extensively with the “Israelis”, when it comes to ‘security’ matters, were the first to inform their constitutes to avoid the neighborhood where the latest bombing occurred.
The French Foreign Ministry urged its nationals not to travel to Lebanon while the Canadian authorities circulated a letter issued to UN staff in Beirut.
By most accounts, the BLOM Bank bombing is certain to have major repercussions in Lebanon. Fears are growing amid speculation that Hizbullah’s regional and international foes may be orchestrating another wave of unrest similar to the one that followed the adoption of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1559 in 2004, as well as the subsequent the assassination of former Premier Rafic Hariri a few months later.
Source: al-Ahed news
18-06-2016 | 09:20
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