The US House of Representatives voted unanimously Wednesday to impose tough new sanctions on banks that knowingly do business with the Lebanon-based Shiite movement Hezbollah.
The bill targeting the Iran-backed Hezbollah, which is considered a terrorist organization by Washington and Israel, passed the Senate last month. It now goes to the White House for President Barack Obama’s signature.
The legislation also targets Hezbollah’s television channel Al-Manar by aiming to cut the broadcast of satellite operators that air the channel’s programming.
The House adopted the measure 422 to 0, following a unanimous vote in the Senate on November 17.
Obama will sign the legislation, a senior administration official told AFP, adding that the administration has worked with Congress for years “to intensify the pressure against the Hezbollah terrorist organization.”
The new rules direct the president to prescribe punishing regulations against financial institutions that conduct transactions with Hezbollah or otherwise launder funds for the organization.
It also requires the administration to present to Congress a series of reports highlighting the group’s narcotics trafficking, transnational crime and operations of international groups linked to Hezbollah, especially in Latin America, sub-Saharan Africa and Asia.
The administration will list those particular countries that support Hezbollah, or in which the group maintains a key logistical base.
“Hezbollah has had to cast a wide net because most Lebanese banks have not wanted to do business with them,” a congressional expert on the legislation told AFP.
With participants in Hezbollah’s global networks “in our cross-hairs, they should be worried,” House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Ed Royce told lawmakers Wednesday ahead of the vote.
“There is no question that Hezbollah is stronger than ever,” said congresswoman Jackie Walorski, who described the group as a dangerous enemy to Israel and one that has amassed more than 150,000 rockets and missiles and gained hardened battlefield experience in Syria.
The Senate bill was sponsored by Marco Rubio from Florida and Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire.
“We cannot afford to jeopardize our national security by letting Iran’s leading terrorist proxy, Hezbollah, continue to pose a direct threat to us and our allies including Israel,” Rubio, a presidential candidate, said last month. “It is time for us to reveal the expansiveness of its dangerous network, and guarantee that our government is focused on eliminating this terrorist group.”