Politics

Hizbullah feels pressure of sanctions: analysts

By Nohad Topalian in Beirut

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Hizbullah supporters watch Hassan Nasrallah deliver a speech on a large screen during celebrations marking the 40th anniversary of the Iranian revolution in Beirut's southern suburbs on February 6th. [Anwar Amro/AFP] 

In a recent speech, Hizbullah chief Hassan Nasrallah acknowledged the financial strain his party is under as a result of US and Gulf state sanctions and the designation of his party as a terrorist group, politicians and analysts said.

In his March 8th speech, the Hizbullah chief also anticipated that following Britain's decision to outlaw the group, further sanctions and punitive measures would be taken against his party and its allies.

Nasrallah's speech "is a clear admission that the US sanctions have done their job in bringing pressure to bear on the party and all those who revolve in its orbit", said Lebanese MP Wehbe Qatisha of the Strong Republic bloc.

"Hizbullah knows that the US sanctions impose a blockade on it that has begun to have an impact on [the party] and its course, and that the consequences of the sanctions imposed on Iran have a bearing on it in various ways," he said.

Nasrallah expects more financial sanctions to come for Hizbullah, Qatisha added, and anticipates that the party will be added to the terrorist lists of more countries, which would curtail its size and influence.

The Hizbullah chief "knows full well that money is an essential element of his military and political role, and that drying up his financial sources would diminish his role and the tasks he performs in Lebanon and the region", he added.

Hizbullah faces financial hardship

"Nasrallah has spoken repeatedly in the past of the financial sanctions and measures taken against his party and individuals who revolve in his orbit," political activist Luqman Salim told Al-Mashareq.

"But this is the first time he has spoken openly of a financial hardship," he said.

"This is a fundamental departure from emphasizing victory, and this announcement of his coincided with a speech by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in which he talked of difficult days awaiting Iran," Salim said.

Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei also called the economic difficulties of Iranians the main and most urgent problem of the country in a message aired March 21st on state TV.

Iran has faced increased economic hardship in the last 12 months, and the renewal of US sanctions sent shockwaves through its economy.

"Specially in recent months the difficulties for people's livelihoods has increased," Khamenei said.

Nasrallah's admission that he is under pressure serves as an "ideological defeat" for the militia, Salim said.

Hizbullah "knows what is being held against it", he said, and understands it is now coming under scrutiny from countries that previously turned a blind eye to its actions.

Sanctions imposed on Hizbullah "have begun to have an impact, by the admission of those involved", as evidenced by the repeated references of Iranian officials and Nasrallah's speeches, said political analyst Elias al-Zoghbi.

"This admission confirms that Iran is facing an economic-financial crisis that will unquestionably affect its political and security influence," he told Al-Mashareq.

Sanctions weaken Hizbullah, Iran influence

The recent sanctions on Hizbullah and Iran will weaken Iran's influence in Syria, Lebanon, Yemen and Iraq, al-Zoghbi said, noting however that "Nasrallah's admission has another facet".

Nasrallah is using the negative impact the sanctions are having on Hizbullah to expert pressure on affluent affiliates in other areas to redouble their financial contributions, al-Zoghbi said.

This message is focused on Hizbullah's affiliates in Africa and South America, he said, adding that Nasrallah's call for "money jihad" amounts to "clear extortion" and is intended to boost his financial position in the face of sanctions.

Donations to Hizbullah that do not pass through state agencies and global financial systems "would constitute smuggling and money laundering", he cautioned.

To monitor and block such activities, al-Zoghbi added, Lebanon must be subjected to more rigorous international monitoring.

"Nasrallah realises how difficult his situation has become, and that many countries, including other Arab states, are going to designate both the military and political wings of his party as terrorist groups," he added.

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"They plan, and Allah plans. And Allah is the best of planners." You won't enjoy your life, o, cowards, by tightening the noose on more than half of the country's population. Your malice will return to your necks, and this will happen very soon.

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[Gibberish] so you and others start thinking and analysing whether Hezbollah is feeling the sanctions or not. You should care about your woman and children and leave Hezbollah alone. Why hasn’t the party ever asked for support from America, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Britain or Israel?! Just relieve yourself and care about your affairs. If you remember, in the July war, Hezbollah was besieged by the entire world and it wasn’t affected by sanctions or pressures; rather, it emerged victorious against America and its allies. The fact that the party is now stronger than ever infuriates Israel. However, you and others just don’t understand.

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This is all a big farce starring America, Iran and Hezbullah. This will be proven in the coming days, and you'll know the goal behind the imposition of sanctions.

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The successful one has dreams, while the unsuccessful one has illusions.

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