Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Treasury Designates Martyrs Foundation Companies and Officials as Global Terrorists

February 26, 2020

Washington – The U.S. Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) today designated as Specially Designated Global Terrorists (SDGTs) three Lebanon-based officials and 12 Lebanon-based entities linked to the Martyrs Foundation, part of Hizballah's support network. Specifically, OFAC designated Atlas Holding for being owned or controlled by the Martyrs Foundation, as well as senior Atlas official Kassem Mohamad Ali Bazzi, and ten Atlas-affiliated companies. Jawad Nur-al-Din and Sheikh Yusuf Aasi were also designated, pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13224, as amended, for being leaders or officials of the Lebanon-based Martyrs Foundation, which was designated for supporting terrorism in July 2007. Mirath S.A.L., which is owned or controlled by Jawad Nur-al-Din, was also designated today.

"Hizballah profits from the sale of goods vital to the Lebanese peoples' health and economy, such as pharmaceuticals and gasoline," said Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin. "The Trump Administration stands with the Lebanese people, and we are committed to exposing and holding accountable Hizballah's terror-funding business schemes."

Hizballah put the Lebanese banking sector at risk through its deep coordination with Jammal Trust Bank, which was designated as an SDGT in August 2019. Atlas Holding — a company controlled by the Martyrs Foundation and subordinate to Hizballah's Executive Council — along with several of its subsidiaries banked freely at Jammal Trust Bank despite their open affiliation with previously designated Hizballah entities. In fact, Jammal Trust Bank facilitated hundreds of millions of dollars in transactions through the Lebanese financial system on behalf of Atlas Holding and its subsidiaries, and aided Hizballah officials in evading scrutiny on these accounts from Lebanese banking authorities.

Hizballah was designated by the Department of State as a Foreign Terrorist Organization in October 1997 and as an SDGT pursuant to E.O. 13224 in October 2001. As noted in previous Treasury actions, the Lebanon office of the Martyrs Foundation acts as an Iranian parastatal organization and is an integral element of Hizballah's global terror support network. It provides services such as financial support to the families of killed or imprisoned Hizballah members, as well as to families of suicide bombers from HAMAS and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. 

ATLAS HOLDING

Atlas Holding is owned or controlled by the Martyrs Foundation.

Atlas Holding owns or controls at least ten companies in numerous sectors in Lebanon, including fuel, pharmaceuticals, tourism, and clothing. According to corporate registration information, the Martyrs Foundation and its senior official Sheikh Yusuf Aasi are listed as founders of Atlas Holdings. As of late 2017, Atlas was among several entities identified as being subordinate to Hizballah's Executive Council, which takes advantage of its entities' legitimate and civilian appearance to conceal money transfers for Hizballah's military use. Although the funding from these Executive Council companies went into Hizballah's coffers and military activities, Hizballah hoped that the seemingly legitimate business funds could protect Hizballah from sanctions.

KASSEM MOHAMAD ALI BAZZI

Kassem Mohamad Ali Bazzi is a leader or official of Atlas Holding.

Kassem Mohamad Ali Bazzi serves as the CEO and Chairman of the Board of Atlas Holding as of 2019, and is the company's largest shareholder. Additionally, according to corporate registration information, he serves as an official for several of Atlas Holdings' subsidiaries, including Amana, Amana Plus, Medic, Shahed Pharm, City Pharma, al Kawthar, and Global Touristic Services.

JAWAD NUR-AL-DIN

Jawad Nur-al-Din is a leader and official of the Martyrs Foundation.

Jawad Nur-al-Din serves as the Director General of the Lebanon-based Martyrs Foundation. In this capacity, he oversees payments to the families of Hizballah fighters who have been killed, and has coordinated these payments with senior Hizballah officials such as SDGT Hashim Safi al-Din. As a senior official of the Lebanon-based Martyrs Foundation, he works closely with senior Hizballah officials and publicly represents the Martyrs Foundation alongside senior Hizballah officials including Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah. Hashim Safi al-Din was designated pursuant to E.O. 13224 in May 2017. Hassan Nasrallah was designated pursuant to E.O. 12947 in January 1995, pursuant to E.O. 13582 in September 2012, and pursuant to E.O. 13224 in 2018.

SHEIKH YUSUF AASI

Sheikh Yusuf Aasi is a leader or official of the Martyrs Foundation.

In his role with the Martyrs Foundation, Sheikh Yusuf Aasi has publicly advocated for the foundation in light of U.S. sanctions against Hizballah and the rising number of Hizballah operatives killed in Syria. Additionally, Sheikh Yusuf Aasi is one of the founders of Atlas Holdings, which is being designated today for being owned or controlled by the Martyrs Foundation.

MEDICAL EQUIPMENT & DRUGS INTERNATIONAL CORPORATION (MEDIC)

Medic is owned or controlled by Atlas Holding. According to corporate registration information, founders of Medic include both Atlas and Bazzi. Atlas is the majority shareholder for the company, and Bazzi, who holds fewer shares, serves as the Director General, Chairman, and authorized signatory for the company.

SHAHED PHARM

Shahed Pharm is owned or controlled by Atlas Holding. According to corporate registration information, senior Martyrs Foundation official Jawad Nur-al-Din is listed as one of its founders, along with Atlas Holdings, and Kassem Mohamad Ali Bazzi is listed as a shareholder, director, and authorized signatory for the company.

AMANA FUEL CO.

Amana Fuel Co. is owned or controlled by Atlas Holding. According to corporate registration information, Atlas Holdings controls the majority of shares in the company, and Kassem Mohamad Ali Bazzi is listed as a founder, director, and authorized signatory for the company.

AMANA PLUS CO.

Amana Plus Co. is owned or controlled by Atlas Holding. According to corporate registration information, Atlas Holdings is a founder of, and the largest shareholder for, Amana Plus Co. Jawad Nur-al-Din and Kassem Mohamad Ali Bazzi are also listed as company founders, with Bazzi also serving as the Director General, Chairman, and authorized signatory of the company.

AL KAWTHAR

Al Kawthar is owned or controlled by Atlas Holding. Also of note, corporate registration information lists Atlas Holding and Martyrs Foundation CEO Jawad Nur-al-Din as founder of Al Kawthar, and Atlas is a majority shareholder in the company.

AMANA SANITARY AND PAINTS COMPANY L.T.D.

Amana Sanitary and Paints Company L.T.D. is owned or controlled by Atlas Holding. According to corporate registration information, Atlas and Jawad Nur-al-Din are both founders of the company, with the majority of the company's stock being allocated to Atlas.

CITY PHARMA S.A.R.L.

City Pharma S.A.R.L. is owned or controlled by Atlas Holding. According to corporate registration information, Atlas is a founder of the company along with Jawad Nur-al-Din, and Kassem Mohamad Ali Bazzi was the authorized signatory for the company.

GLOBAL TOURISTIC SERVICES S.A.L.

Global Touristic Services S.A.L. is owned or controlled by Atlas Holding. According to corporate registration information, the company was founded by Atlas, Kassem Mohamad Ali Bazzi, and Jawad Nur-al-Din. Additionally, Atlas is the majority shareholder in the company, Kassem Mohamad Ali Bazzi is the authorized signatory, and Jawad Nur-al-Din and Kassem Mohamad Ali Bazzi are members of the board of directors.

MIRATH S.A.L.

Mirath is owned or controlled by Jawad Nur-al-Din. According to corporate registration information, Jawad Nur-al-Din is the chairman of the board, majority shareholder, as well as a founder of, and authorized signatory for, Mirath S.A.L.

SANOVERA PHARM COMPANY SARL

Sanovera Pharm Company SARL is owned or controlled by Atlas Holding.

CAPITAL S.A.L.

Capital S.A.L. is owned or controlled by Atlas Holding.

SANCTIONS IMPLICATIONS

The Treasury Department continues to prioritize disrupting the full range of Hizballah's illicit financial activity, including its financial support network.

As a result of today's action, all property and interests in property of these targets that are in the United States or in the possession or control of U.S. persons must be blocked and reported to OFAC. OFAC's regulations generally prohibit all dealings by U.S. persons or within the United States (including transactions transiting the United States) that involve any property or interests in property of blocked or designated persons. In addition, persons that engage in certain transactions with the individuals and entities designated today may themselves be exposed to sanctions or subject to an enforcement action.  

Furthermore, the individuals and entities designated today are subject to secondary sanctions pursuant to E.O. 13224, as amended. Pursuant to this authority, OFAC can prohibit or impose strict conditions on the opening or maintaining in the United States of a correspondent account or a payable-through account by a foreign financial institution.

Read identifying information related to today's action here. 

####


Friday, February 14, 2020

Anniversary of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri’s Assassination

PRESS STATEMENT
MICHAEL R. POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE
FEBRUARY 14, 2020
Today marks the 15th anniversary of the assassination of former Lebanese Premier Rafik Hariri, an act of mass murder that resulted in the deaths of 21 others and injuries of 266 victims in Beirut.  Multiple Hizballah-linked individuals were indicted for their roles in this terrorist attack and must finally be brought to justice.  Ending impunity is imperative to ensuring Lebanon's security, stability, and sovereignty.  We support the work of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) to hold accountable those responsible for the attack.   Hizballah has demonstrated through its terrorist and illicit activities that it is more concerned with its own interests and those of its patron, Iran, than what is best for the Lebanese people.  The United States continues to stand proudly with the Lebanese people in their peaceful calls for reform, transparency, and accountability.


Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Government Formation in Lebanon

01/22/2020 06:45 PM EST

Michael R. Pompeo, Secretary of State

The test of Lebanon's new government will be its actions and its responsiveness to the demands of the Lebanese people to implement reforms and to fight corruption.  Only a government that is capable of and committed to undertaking real and tangible reforms will restore investor confidence and unlock international assistance for Lebanon.

The unified, non-sectarian, and largely peaceful protests over the last three months reflect the Lebanese people's aspirations for their political leaders to put aside partisan interests and to act in the national interest.   We urge the government, army, and security services to guarantee the safety of citizens as they engage in peaceful demonstrations.  Violence and provocative actions have no place in civil discourse.

Secretary Michael R. Pompeo With Kevin Cirilli of Bloomberg

INTERVIEW
MICHAEL R. POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE
PEGASUS HOTEL
KINGSTON, JAMAICA
JANUARY 22, 2020

Excerpt

QUESTION: I just have a couple of final questions. The situation in Lebanon – they've had their cabinet, and they've got Hizballah connections. Is the U.S. going to work with this new cabinet?

SECRETARY POMPEO: We'll have to take a look at it. I don't know the answer to that yet. I saw what happened over the last 24 hours. We've been very clear about the requirements for the United States to engage. Lebanon has a terrible financial crisis that lays in front of it in just the weeks ahead. We're prepared to engage, provide support, but only to a government that's committed to reform. That's important for America, but if you look at the protests that are taking place in Beirut and cities outside of Beirut, you can see, just like in Baghdad – go look at the protests in Baghdad – these aren't anti-American protests; these are protests demanding sovereignty and freedom. The protests taking place today in Lebanon are saying to Hizballah, "No mas." No more. We want a non-corrupt government that reflects the will of the people of Lebanon. If this government in responsive to that and there's a new set of leaders that's prepared to make those commitments and deliver on that, that's the kind of government that we'll support around the world and the kind of government we would support in Lebanon.


Saturday, January 18, 2020

Secretary Pompeo: We call on all nations to designate #Hizballah as the terrorist organization it is.

Secretary Pompeo
Verified account
@SecPompeo
Jan 18 2020
On this 5 year anniversary of prosecutor Alberto Nisman's death, we remember the 1994 AMIA Jewish center attack in Buenos Aires and his tireless efforts to bring the perpetrators to justice. We call on all nations to designate #Hizballah as the terrorist organization it is.

Johnson Asks For Review Of Visa System From DHS Following Iran Conflict

U.S. SENATE COMMITTEE ON HOMELAND SECURITY AND GOVERNMENTAL AFFAIRS

01/16/2020 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 01/16/2020 16:13

Johnson Asks For Review Of Visa System From DHS Following Iran Conflict

Thursday, January 16, 2020

WASHINGTON - U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, sent a letter Wednesday to Acting Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Chad Wolf to better understand the vulnerabilities our visa system faces from Iran, Hizballah, and other Iranian proxies.

Chairman Johnson wrote, 'The U.S. government must remain vigilant against a real threat of violence to the homeland by Iran or any of the foreign terrorist organizations (FTOs) that Iran sponsors. This includes taking steps to ensure that our immigration system adjusts along with this changing threat landscape.

'Although the U.S. restricts the visas available to Iranian nationals, individuals associated with Iran-sponsored FTOs may seek to travel to the U.S. from places not subject to these visa restrictions. For example, Lebanese Hizballah members may have Lebanese passports, which allow them to travel into the U.S. more freely. Additionally, reporting indicates that hundreds of student visas have been issued to Iranian nationals in FY2019 and thousands in FY2018. To better understand how DHS is adapting to this dynamic threat environment, I respectfully request the following records and information…'

Full text of the letter is below, and the letter can be viewed here.

January 15, 2020

The Honorable Chad F. Wolf

Acting Secretary

U.S. Department of Homeland Security

246 Murray Lane, SW

Washington, D.C. 20528

Dear Acting Secretary Wolf:

Two days after the United States killed Qasem Soleimani, the Commander of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force and a prolific sponsor of terrorism,[1] the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a National Terrorism Advisory Bulletin warning of potential reprisals by Iran and their proxies.[2] Soon after, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani vowed revenge;[3] and Secretary General Nasrallah, the leader of the Iranian-proxy Hizballah, warned that all U.S. military assets are fair targets.[4] On January 8, Iran launched missile strikes against U.S. personnel located in Iraq, fortunately leading to no causalities.[5] The U.S. government must remain vigilant against a real threat of violence to the homeland by Iran or any of the foreign terrorist organizations (FTOs) that Iran sponsors. This includes taking steps to ensure that our immigration system adjusts along with this changing threat landscape.

Although the U.S. restricts the visas available to Iranian nationals, individuals associated with Iran-sponsored FTOs may seek to travel to the U.S. from places not subject to these visa restrictions. For example, Lebanese Hizballah members may have Lebanese passports, which allow them to travel into the U.S. more freely.[6] Additionally, reporting indicates that hundreds of student visas have been issued to Iranian nationals in FY2019 and thousands in FY2018.[7] To better understand how DHS is adapting to this dynamic threat environment, I respectfully request the following records and information:

  1. Data on the visa denial referrals based on derogatory information learned through the vetting undertaken by DHS and communicated to the Department of State during FY2018 and FY2019.
  1. Data on the number of Iranians who were denied entry during FY2018 and FY2019.
  1. Data on visa overstays by Iranian citizens, broken down by visa category, for FY2018 and FY2019.
    1. For each overstay identified above, the status of any open investigations.
  1. A list of countries from which Iranian nationals have applied for visas to the U.S. during FY2018 and FY2019, and, for each of those countries, a description of the DHS Visa Security Unit personnel located at the relevant U.S. Embassies and Consulates.
  1. A description of DHS' social media vetting of Iranian visa applicants pursuant to Section 5 of Executive Order 13,780.[8]
  1. A list and description of all DHS investigations into Hizballah and the Qods Force since FY2018.

Please produce this material as soon as possible, but by no later than 5:00 p.m. on Friday, January 31, 2020. To the maximum extent possible, please provide unclassified responses to these questions. Any classified information provided in response to this letter should be provided under separate cover through the Office of Senate Security. In addition, I request that appropriate Department of Homeland Security staff arrange a briefing with my staff on this matter. Please arrange this briefing by February 14, 2020.

The Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs is authorized by Rule XXV of the Standing Rules of the Senate to investigate 'the efficiency, economy, and effectiveness of all agencies and departments of the Government.'[9] Additionally, Senate Resolution 70 (116th Congress) authorizes the Committee to examine 'the efficiency and economy of operations of all branches the Government.'[10] For purposes of this request, please refer to the definitions and instructions in the enclosure.

If you have any questions about this request, please contact Brian Kennedy of the Committee staff at (202) 224-4751. Thank you for your attention to this important matter.

Sincerely,

Ron Johnson

Chairman

###

[1]See, e.g., Jerry Dunlavy, Qassem Soleimani was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American soldiers, Wash. Examiner, Jan. 2, 2020, https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/news/qassem-soleimani-was-responsible-for-the-deaths-of-hundreds-of-american-soldiers.

[2] U.S. Dep't of Homeland Security, National Terrorism Advisory System Bulletin (Jan.4 2020), https://www.dhs.gov/ntas/advisory/national-terrorism-advisory-system-bulletin-january-4-2020.

[3] Alissa J. Rubin et al., Outrage in Iran After Killing of Suleimani: Here's What You Need to Know, N.Y. Times, Jan. 5, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/05/world/middleeast/Iran-us-trump.html.

[4] Anna Ahronheim, Nasrallah: Trump has started a new type of war in the region, Jerusalum Post, Jan. 5, 2020, https://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/Nasrallah-Solemanis-death-marks-new-era-for-the-Middle-East-613169.

[5] Ahmed Aboulenein et al., Iranian missiles target U.S. troops in Iraq, Trump consults advisers, Reuters, Jan. 7, 2020, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-iraq-security/us-response-awaited-after-iran-strikes-at-us-troops-in-iraq-to-avenge-generals-killing-idUSKBN1Z60NL.

[6] U.S. Dep't of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs, June 26 Supreme Court Decision on Presidential Proclamation 9645, https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/visa-information-resources/presidential-proclamation-archive/june_26_supreme_court_decision_on_presidential_proclamation9645.html (last visited Jan 10, 2020).

[7] Laura D. Francis, Iran Visas Exempted From Trump Travel Ban Being Blocked Anyway, Bloomberg Law News June 27, 2019, https://news.bloomberglaw.com/daily-labor-report/iran-visas-exempted-from-trump-travel-ban-being-blocked-anyway.

[8] U.S. Dep't of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs, Collection of Social Media Identifiers from U.S. Visa Applicants (June 4, 2019), https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/News/visas-news/20190604_collection-of-social-media-identifiers-from-U.-S.-visa-applicants.html (last visited Jan 10, 2020).

[9] S. Rule XXV(k); see also S. Res. 445, 108th Cong. (2004).

[10] S. Res. 70, 116th Cong. §12(e)(I)(A) (2019) (enacted).


Sunday, December 22, 2019

Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Hale’s Meetings with Lebanese Officials

READOUT
OFFICE OF THE SPOKESPERSON
DECEMBER 22, 2019
The below is attributable to Spokesperson Morgan Ortagus:
Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale concluded a two-day trip to Lebanon where he met with government officials, including President Michel Aoun, Speaker of Parliament Nabih Berri, Caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri, Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil, and political party representatives. Under Secretary Hale encouraged the Lebanese leaders to put aside partisan interests and support formation of a government committed to and capable of undertaking meaningful, sustained reforms. The Under Secretary called on the government, army, and security services to continue to guarantee the rights and safety of protesters. He reaffirmed America's longstanding partnership and enduring commitment to a secure, stable, and prosperous Lebanon.

Friday, December 20, 2019

Statement by U/S of State for Political Affairs David Hale Developments in Lebanon

By U.S. Embassy Beirut | 20 December, 2019
Good morning everyone I am in Lebanon today, at the request of Secretary of State Pompeo, to meet with Lebanese leaders to discuss the current situation here.

My visit reflects the strength of the partnership between our two countries.

I am here to encourage Lebanon's political leaders to commit to and to undertake meaningful, sustained reforms that can lead to a stable, prosperous, and secure Lebanon.  And that was the content of the conversation that I just had with President Aoun.

It is time to put aside partisan interests and act in the national interest, advancing reforms and forming a government that is committed to undertake those reforms and capable of doing so. We have no role in saying who should lead and comprise such a cabinet. Or indeed any cabinet.

The unified, non-sectarian, and largely peaceful protests over the last 65 days reflect the Lebanese people's longstanding and frankly legitimate demand for economic and institutional reform, better governance, and an end to endemic corruption.

America calls on the security forces to continue to guarantee the safety of protesters as they engage in peaceful demonstrations, and for restraint by all. Violence has no place in civil discourse.

America wants Lebanon and its people – all of its people – to succeed, and we will remain a committed partner in that effort.

Thank you very much.

Visit of Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale

Dec 20 2019
Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale arrived in Lebanon today to meet with a broad range of Lebanese officials.

During his visit, Under Secretary Hale, who served as U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon from 2013-2015, will underscore America's commitment to its partnership with the state of Lebanon. He will encourage Lebanon's political leaders to commit to the necessary reforms that can lead to a stable, prosperous, and secure country.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Eighth Meeting of the Law Enforcement Coordination Group Focused on Countering Hizballah’s Terrorist and Illicit Activities

MEDIA NOTE
OFFICE OF THE SPOKESPERSON
DECEMBER 17, 2019

The Law Enforcement Coordination Group (LECG), which focuses on countering Hizballah's terrorist and illicit activities, convened at Europol's headquarters in the Netherlands on December 16-17, for its eighth meeting. Law enforcement, prosecutors, and financial practitioners from the Middle East, South America, Europe, Africa, Asia, and North America, participated in this session, alongside specialists from Europol.

The LECG meeting focused on Hizballah's financial, commercial, and procurement networks and schemes and their linkages to Hizballah's terrorist activity.  Participants also discussed recent law enforcement actions that governments have taken to disrupt Hizballah's international operations.

Officials from the U.S. Departments of State, Justice, and the Treasury, as well as the Federal Bureau of Investigation, National Counterterrorism Center, and Drug Enforcement Administration, also participated in this meeting.  The LECG will convene again in Europe in 2020.