Friday, October 26, 2018

Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Levant Joel Rayburn Visits Lebanon

On October 25, Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Levant Joel Rayburn concluded his visit to Lebanon where he met with Lebanese government officials, in addition to UN officials and business leaders.
In his meetings, Deputy Assistant Secretary Rayburn reiterated the U.S. government's commitment to a secure, stable, and prosperous Lebanon.

By U.S. Embassy Beirut | 26 October, 2018 

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Statement from the Press Secretary

Issued on: October 25, 2018
Today, President Donald J. Trump signed into law the Hizballah International Financing Prevention Amendments Act (HIFPAA) of 2018, which imposes additional hard-hitting sanctions on Hizballah, a radical Islamist terrorist organization and close partner and proxy of the Iranian regime.  Hizballah has kidnapped, tortured, and murdered American citizens, including in its brutal attack in 1983 on our Marine Barracks in Beirut, Lebanon, which killed 241 American Marines, Sailors, and Soldiers, wounded 128 other American service members, and killed a Lebanese civilian.  Another bombing against the French barracks killed 58 French peacekeepers and five Lebanese civilians.

This evening, President Trump commemorated the 35th anniversary of the attack in Beirut on the Marine Barracks with survivors and family members of the victims.  The United States will never forget the precious lives lost that day, and will continue to honor their memory by taking action against their murderers.  Under President Trump's leadership, the United States has imposed historic sanctions on Hizballah and its chief ally: the corrupt Iranian regime.  This past year, we levied more sanctions on Hizballah than we have imposed on the organization in any other year.  Additionally, on November 5th, all United States nuclear-related sanctions against Iran, lifted under the horrible, one-sided Iran nuclear deal, will be reimposed in full force.

The legislation that President Trump signed into law today will further isolate Hizballah from the international financial system and reduce its funding.  These sanctions will target foreign persons and government agencies that knowingly assist or support Hizballah, and Hizballah-affiliated networks that engage in drug trafficking or other transnational crime.  We thank Senators Crapo, Brown, Rubio, and Shaheen and Representatives Royce and Engel for working with the Administration on this important legislation to counter Iran's Hizballah proxy.

President Donald J. Trump Signed S.1595 into Law

Issued on: October 25, 2018
On Thursday, October 25, 2018, the President signed into law:
S. 1595, the "Hizballah International Financing Prevention Amendments Act of 2018," which expands sanctions on foreign entities that support Hizballah or its agents.

Remarks by President Trump Commemorating the 35th Anniversary of the Attack on Beirut Barracks

Issued on: 

East Room

6:26 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  Thank you very much.  (Applause.)  That's fantastic.  Thank you.  Please be seated.  Thank you very much.  A lot of spirit in this room.  (Laughter.)  A lot of spirit.  For good reason.

We're gathered together on this solemn occasion to fulfill our most reverent and sacred duty.  Thirty-five years ago, 241 American service members were murdered in the terrorist attack on our Marine Barracks in Beirut, Lebanon.  It was a very sad period of time.  These are great, great people.

Today, we honor our fallen heroes and pledge that their blessed memory will never die, but live instead in the hearts of our grateful nation forever.

We are joined by, and for, today's observers.  And I'd like to introduce some of the outstanding people in our government, and some that are outside of our government, starting off with Secretary of State Pompeo.  (Applause.)  Mike?  Where is Mike?  Stand up, Mike.  (Applause.)  Thank you.  Great job.  And he's been doing a lot of traveling.  A very well-traveled man, aren't you, Mike?  Huh?

Secretary of Defense Mattis.  (Applause.)  Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer.  (Applause.)  Thank you.  Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford.  (Applause.)  Hi, Joseph.

Army Chief of Staff General Mark Milley.  (Applause.)  Mark, thank you.  Thank you, Mark.  Commandant of the Marine Corps General Robert Neller.  (Applause.) Robert.

Commandant of the Coast Guard Admiral Karl Schultz.  (Applause.)  And Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps Ronald Green.  Ronald.  (Applause.)  As well as my Chief of Staff, and a beloved Marine — he loves the Marines — John Kelly.  John.  (Applause.)

And much more important, a great wife and a great mother: Karen.  Please stand up.  Karen Pence.  (Applause.)  Great woman.  Great man.  Great woman.  Thank you very much.  Thank you everybody.

And thanks to the French Ambassador to the United States, Gérard Araud, for being here.  Gérard.  Where are you, Gérard?  Thank you very much.  (Applause.)  Thank you very much.  I just spoke to your President.  I just spoke to President Macron, and he's doing well.  He sends his regards.  (Laughter.)

I also want to recognize two very special retired Marines who led with extraordinary valor in the wake of the Beirut terrorist attack: Colonel Tim Garrity and General Al Gray.  (Applause.)

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  We love you, General Gray!

THE PRESIDENT:  See that?  They all love you.

We are also truly thankful to have with us the veterans of Beirut, who really — I mean, this is an incredible group.  I'm going to ask you to stand.  You courageously survived that terrible October day, and you have made your "First Duty to Remember."  Please stand.  (Applause.)

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  We love you, Mr. President!

THE PRESIDENT:  Such incredible spirit.  I see hugging and kissing.  I think it's fantastic.  That's — that's what love is, right?  That's real love.  That's the kind of love we like.  That's beautiful.  Thank you.  Thank you.  Great, great people.

Most importantly, we're joined by the families of those who made the ultimate sacrifice for us.  Please stand.  Please.  (Applause.)  Wow.  Wow.  That's great.  That's really great.  Thank you.  Thank you all.  Thank you.  Thank you very much.  That's great.  Incredible.

To every Gold Star Family: Today, we pay tribute to the heroes you knew and loved.  We grieve and mourn by your side.  And we honor the immortal sacrifice of 241 heroes who gave their lives for our freedom.  Thank you for being here very much.

In 1983, roughly 1,800 Marines were in Beirut to keep the peace in a nation torn apart by civil war.  Terrorists had bombed the U.S. Embassy earlier that year, killing 63 people, including 17 Americans.

For the 300 Marines stationed at the Beirut Airport, the morning of October 23rd arrived like any other.  The Marines on guard stood there and at their post; others slept peacefully in their bunks — until suddenly, and without warning, a truck driven by a terrorist crashed through the fences and barricades, and into the lobby of the Marine Barracks.

At 6:22 a.m., the terrorist detonated the equivalent of 1,200 pounds, commonly known as 12,000 pounds — that's a lot, and it's terrible — of explosives, killing 3 American soldiers, 18 American sailors, and 220 United States Marines.  That was a horrible moment.

Minutes later, another truck bomb took the lives of 58 French paratroopers.  It was the single deadliest day for the Marines since Iwo Jima.

The attack was carried out by Hezbollah, which Iran was instrumental in founding a year earlier to advance its radical agenda, and remain its main patron today.  And we are doing a big number on Iran today, in case you haven't noticed.  (Applause.)

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  God bless you, Mr. Trump!

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much.  I'll tell you what — they're not the same country they were when I took office, I will tell you that.  (Applause.)  They're rioting in their streets.  Their money has collapsed.  Their lives are a lot different.  And they're not looking so much for the Mediterranean.   When I took office, they were looking for the Mediterranean.  They were going to take over everything.  Now they want to survive.  Whole different deal, folks.  It's a whole different deal.

No terrorist group other than al Qaeda has more American blood on its hands.

The service members who died that day include brave young Marines just out of high school, accomplished officers in the middle of their military careers, and enlisted men who had served in theaters all over the world.  But they formed one united military family, defending their nation, serving their fellow Americans, and wearing their uniform with dignity and pride.  Such incredible pride.

Each of these heroes died as they lived: as noble warriors — they were warriors — whose hearts were filled with courage and whose souls were rich with love.

The United States Marines are often the first to deploy, the first into danger, and the "first to fight."  And on that morning 35 years ago, they were among the very first to give their lives in the battle against radical Islamic terrorism — the battle that we are winning and we will win.  (Applause.)

And I have to point out — and I can do this for General Kelly, General Mattis, and everybody here — that we are doing very well in our fight against ISIS.  They are virtually knocked out entirely in Syria.  In another short period of time, they'll be gone, and also in Iraq and in lots of other places.  We have stepped up the fight to a level that even General Mattis was very happy to get that order.  Is that right, General?  We've done a very strong number.  (Applause.)  Radical Islamic terror.

As Commander-in-Chief, I will always ensure that our service members have the tools, resources, equipment, support, and trust they need to protect this nation and to defeat America's enemies with overwhelming force.  No enemy on Earth can match the strength of our military or the might of our Marines.  We will use every instrument of our national power to confront the sinister forces of terrorism.

That is one reason why last year I withdrew the United States from the Iran nuclear disaster.  (Applause.)  On November 5th, all U.S. sanctions against Iran lifted by the nuclear deal will be back in full force — every sanction that we had on there originally, which would have — if they would have just left it a little bit longer, it would have been so much easier than what we've been through over the last number of years.  All they had to do was leave it the way it was.  It was eating them away.  But we've started it all over again, and it will be just as good.  Wasted time — and lives, unfortunately.

And they will be followed up with even more sanctions to address the full range of Iran's malign conduct.  We will not allow the world's leading sponsor of terror to develop the world's deadliest weapons.  Will not happen.

Over the past year, we have levied the highest number of sanctions ever imposed on Hezbollah in a single year, by far.  Just a few moments ago, I signed legislation imposing even more hard-hitting sanctions on Hezbollah to further starve them of their funds.  And they are starving their funds.  (Applause.)

We will target, disrupt, and dismantle their operational and financing networks — of which they had plenty; they don't have plenty now — and we will never forget what they did to our great Marines in Beirut.  We will never forget.  (Applause.)

In the days after the attack, very brave General Al Gray traveled to more than 150 funerals of his beloved Marines who perished in the Beirut bombing.

On one of those trips, he arrived at Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama.  There, he joined the hour-long funeral procession to transport a fallen Marine to his final resting place in a small town near Auburn, Alabama.

On that long drive, General Gray witnessed a sight that would stay with him forever.  Throughout the entire journey — along both sides of the highway, for miles and miles of country road, as far as the eye could see –- everyday citizens, who came by the thousands, were lined up to pay their highest respects.  They were waving flags, holding hands, holding their hands also over their hearts, and standing in silent salute to our great fallen Marine heroes.

This outpouring of love and devotion was but a small measure of the eternal gratitude of our nation.  In all of our history, no figure has ever lived with more grace and courage than the men and women who serve our country in uniform.  They are God's blessing to us all.  They are God's blessing.  (Applause.) They are incredible, incredible people.

Each of the Gold Star families here today carries on the remarkable legacy of their loved ones.  You care for your families, you serve your communities, you support one another, you persevere, and you overcome.  And I know you very well: You win.  You just know nothing but winning.  I know the people — some of the people in this room, they just know how to win.  And you keep the memory of our heroes alive.

So this evening, we pay tribute to your service.  We honor your sacrifice.  And we say, on behalf of all Americans, thank you.  Thank you for your courage.  Thank you for your strength.  Thank you for your devotion.  Thank you for your love that is greater than life itself.  And thank you for remembering us all what it means to live like our heroes: forever brave, forever strong, and always, always, always faithful.

Thank you once again.  And God bless you.  Thank you.  Thank you very much.  (Applause.)  Thank you, folks.  Thank you very much.  Thank you.


Thursday, October 18, 2018

Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) Director Vayl Oxford’s Visit to Lebanon

On October 16, 2018, the DTRA Director, Vayl Oxford, met with the Commander of the Lebanese Armed Forces, General Joseph Aoun, to discuss both border and maritime security.  In partnership with the both Lebanese Army and the United Kingdom, the United States is proud to outfit and train Lebanese border units with state-of-art surveillance capabilities with which to defend Lebanon.  The U.S. government is committed to the Lebanese-American partnership and support to the Lebanese Armed Forces in their capacity as the sole defender of Lebanon.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Attorney General Sessions Announces New Measures to Fight Transnational Organized Crime

Monday, October 15, 2018

Attorney General Jeff Sessions today announced a series of measures to dismantle transnational criminal organizations.

"The day I was sworn in as Attorney General, President Trump sent me an executive order to dismantle transnational criminal organizations—the gangs and cartels who flood our streets with drugs and violence," Attorney General Sessions said.  "We embrace that order and we carry it out every single day.  Today, to increase our effectiveness, I am putting in place new leadership to drive our transnational organized crime efforts and forming a Transnational Organized Crime Task Force of experienced prosecutors that will coordinate and optimize the Department's efforts to take each of these groups off of our streets for good."

The Attorney General has appointed Associate Deputy Attorney General Patrick Hovakimian to serve as the Department's first Director of Counter Transnational Organized Crime.  Hovakimian has served in Department leadership since early 2017 and also as an AUSA in the Southern District of California, where he is co-lead counsel in a series of transnational public corruption and fraud cases.  In addition to his duties as federal prosecutor, earlier this year the President nominated and the U.S. Senate confirmed Hovakimian to serve as a Commissioner of the Foreign Claims Settlement Commission of the United States.

Attorney General Sessions has appointed Adam Cohen as the new Director of Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF).  Cohen is currently the Chief of the Criminal Division Special Operations Unit's Office of Enforcement Operations and has served in the Criminal Division for 10 years.  He has also served as an Assistant United States Attorney (AUSA) for five years and as a state prosecutor in Florida for seven years.  He also led the National Gang Targeting Enforcement and Coordination Center for nearly three years and has served as a Deputy Chief of the Narcotics and Dangerous Drug Section.  He is a past recipient of the Assistant Attorney General's Award for Reduction and Deterrence of Violent and Organized Crime, as well as the DEA Administrator's Award for his work to counter narcotics trafficking.

On February 9, 2017, President Donald J. Trump issued Executive Order 13773, which directed the federal government to "ensure that Federal law enforcement agencies give a high priority and devote sufficient resources to efforts to identify, interdict, disrupt, and dismantle transnational criminal organizations[.]"

Following this Executive Order, Attorney General Sessions directed the FBI, DEA, OCDETF, and the Department's Criminal Division to identify top transnational criminal groups that threaten the safety and prosperity of the United States and its allies.  As a result of that review, the Attorney General is designating the following criminal groups as top transnational organized crime threats:

•     MS-13

•     Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion (CJNG)

•     Sinaloa Cartel

•     Clan del Golfo, and

•     Lebanese Hezbollah.

The Attorney General's TOC Task Force will be led by the Deputy Attorney General and will be composed of experienced prosecutors.  It will be organized into one subcommittee for each of the target groups.

The subcommittee on MS-13 will be led by Assistant U.S. Attorney John Durham of the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of New York.  AUSA Durham has played a significant role in the FBI's Long Island Task Force, which has arrested hundreds of MS-13 members.

The subcommittee on Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generacion will be led by Trial Attorney Brett Reynolds of the Narcotic and Dangerous Drug Section of the Department's Criminal Division.  Reynolds has led or co-led several investigations into the Cartel that have led to indictments of some of its highest ranking members.

The subcommittee on the Sinaloa Cartel will be led by Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Sutton of the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of California.  AUSA Sutton prosecuted several Sinaloa kingpins and led multiple international investigations targeting Sinaloa Cartel leaders, resulting in seizures of millions of dollars in drug proceeds and thousands of kilograms of illicit drugs.

The subcommittee on Clan del Golfo will be led by Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Emery of the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Florida.  AUSA Emery has secured convictions against the top leadership of Clan del Golfo, including kingpin Henry de Jesus Lopez Londoño, who commanded over 1,000 armed men for the cartel.

The subcommittee on Lebanese Hezbollah will be led by Assistant U.S. Attorney Ilan Graff of the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York.  AUSA Graff is overseeing the prosecution of two alleged members of Hezbollah's External Security Organization, the first such operatives to be charged with terrorism offenses in the United States.

Attorney General Sessions has ordered each of these subcommittees to provide specific recommendations within 90 days on how to disrupt and dismantle TOC, whether through prosecution, diplomacy, or other lawful means.

This new Task Force builds upon work that Attorney General Sessions has already done to dismantle these groups.  On January 11, 2018, Attorney General Sessions established the Hezbollah Financing and Narcoterrorism Team (HFNT), a group of experienced international narcotics trafficking, terrorism, organized crime, and money laundering prosecutors.  HFNT prosecutors and investigators are tasked with investigating individuals and networks providing support to Hezbollah, and pursuing prosecutions in any appropriate cases.  The new subcommittee—which will be staffed and led by HFNT members—will aid the ongoing work of the HFNT.

On October 23, 2017, Attorney General Sessions formally designated MS-13 as a priority target for OCDETF.

Friday, October 12, 2018

US Senate unanimously passes two bills sanctioning Hezbollah

The bills target companies that knowingly assist Hezbollah and any use of human shields
Joyce Karam
October 12, 2018
The HIFPAA and the STOP Using Human Shields Act passed the Senate with unanimous bipartisan support. AP
The US Senate cleared two major bills on Friday that go after Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, passing both unanimously with bipartisan support.

Lawmakers sent the "Hezbollah International Financing Prevention Amendments Act of 2017" (HIFPAA) to the President's desk, who is expected to sign in it into law in the coming days.

The HIFPAA and the "STOP Using Human Shields Act" (known as STOP) unanimously passed the US Senate, clearing the way for sanctions that would target the Iranian-funded group. The HIFPAA legislation will go after foreign individuals and companies that voluntarily provide financial, material or technological support to Hezbollah and its affiliates. It targets Hezbollah-controlled social and financial organisations such as Bayt al Mal, the Islamic Resistance Support Association, Jihad al Binaa, the Foreign Relations Department of Hezballah, Al Manar TV, Al Nour Radio, and the Lebanese Media Group with sanctions.

The bill also requires the president to report to Congress on Hezbollah's transnational activity, including any money laundering and narcotics activities across Latin America, the African continent or Asia and Europe. The bill also goes after state sponsors of the Lebanese party.

The Senate also passed the human shields prevention act, to impose sanctions on groups such as Hezbollah, Hamas and Al Qaeda that it accuses of using civilians as human shields in conflict. The bill that passed the Senate eliminated a requirement for the US President to go to the UN Security Council and enact a Human Shields resolution. It will now go to the House of Representatives for another vote before being referred to the President's desk.

Tyler Stapleton, deputy director of congressional relations at the Foundation for the Defence of Democracies, told The National that unanimous support for the bills across party lines shows where Congress stands on Hezbollah. "It means that every Senator thinks targeting Hezbollah's financing is a good policy objective and that sanctioning countries that do business with Hezbollah is worth pursuing" Mr Stapleton said.

He said, particularly with HIFPAA, "sanctions could also be imposed on the governments of Syria and Lebanon" if they are found facilitating and coordinating funding for Hezbollah.

This pressure may complicate matters for the party inside Lebanon, argued Randa Slim, a director of the track II dialogues program at the Middle East Institute. Ms Slim, who has extensively studied Hezbollah, told The National that the bills "further complicate Hezbollah's financial situation which has already been weakened by four factors."

These include the costs of Hezbollah's intervention in Syria; US sanctions on Iran which are cutting into Hezbollah's money supply from Tehran; fears among Hezbollah's Lebanese Shia financiers after the arrest and extradition to US of Kassim Tajeddine, a major Hezbollah financier who was arrested in Morocco last year, and worsening economic conditions in Lebanon which put more strains on Hezbollah's core constituency.

Asked if the sanctions would affect Hezbollah's share in the future Lebanese government, Ms Slim did not expect major changes on that front. "This has already been factored into their calculus" she said.

Thursday, October 04, 2018

Treasury Continues to Expose and Disrupt Hizballah’s Financial Support Networks

October 4, 2018 
Washington – The U.S. Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) took action today to disrupt Hizballah's financial support networks by designating Muhammad 'Abdallah al-Amin (al-Amin) as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13224.  OFAC designated al-Amin for providing material support to Hizballah insider and financier Adham Husayn Tabaja (Tabaja).  In addition to al-Amin, OFAC designated seven Lebanon-based companies that are owned or controlled by al-Amin:  Sierra Gas S.A.L. Offshore, Lama Foods S.A.R.L., Lama Foods International Offshore S.A.L., Impulse S.A.R.L., Impulse International S.A.L. Offshore, M. Marine S.A.L. Offshore, and Thaingui S.A.L. Offshore. 

"Hizballah is an Iranian-proxy, and this Administration is focused on exposing and disrupting its terrorist funding networks.  We are exerting extraordinary pressure on Hizballah financiers like Tabaja to halt their pernicious activities in Lebanon and beyond," said Sigal Mandelker, Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence.  "Our action should serve as a warning that we will impose consequences on anyone engaging in business relationships with al-Amin or other Hizballah support networks.  Treasury has taken more actions against Hizballah this year than ever before, and we are fully committed to shutting down this terrorist network."

Calendar year 2018 marks the highest number of Hizballah-related designations by OFAC in a single year.  The designation of al-Amin and his companies builds upon additional actions taken in February 2018 targeting the Tabaja network operating in West Africa and Lebanon.  OFAC designated Tabaja on June 6, 2015, for acting for or on behalf of Hizballah.  Tabaja maintains direct ties to senior Hizballah officials and Hizballah's operational component, the Islamic Jihad, which is responsible for planning, coordinating, and executing Hizballah's terrorist attacks worldwide.  Tabaja also holds properties in Lebanon on behalf of Hizballah. 

All property and interests in property of those persons designated today that are subject to U.S. jurisdiction are now blocked, and U.S. persons are generally prohibited from engaging in transactions with them.


Al-Amin was designated for assisting in, sponsoring, or providing financial, material, or technological support for, or financial or other services to or in support of, Tabaja.

Al-Amin conceals funds for Tabaja, and Tabaja has held a significant amount of funds in al-Amin's name at a Lebanese bank.  Al-Amin has also served as a liaison between Tabaja and banking officials and has assisted Tabaja in circumventing the impact of sanctions. 

In addition to his direct support to Tabaja, al-Amin has been involved in financial activities with Muhammad Fallah Kallas, whom OFAC designated on October 20, 2016, for providing financial services to or in support of Tabaja through his work for Tabaja's company, Al-Inmaa Engineering and Contracting (Al-Inmaa).  Moreover, al-Amin has business relationships with Ali Muhammad Qansu and Jihad Muhammad Qansu, whom OFAC designated on February 2, 2018, for acting for or on behalf of Tabaja and Tabaja's company, Al-Inmaa, respectively. 


All seven entities were designated for being owned or controlled by al-Amin.

Al-Amin is a founder, majority shareholder, and the chairman of Sierra Gas S.A.L. Offshore, a provider of gas field services; Lama Foods International Offshore S.A.L., a food importer and distributor; Impulse International S.A.L. Offshore, a general merchandise distributor; M. Marine S.A.L. Offshore, a general merchandise distributor; and Thaingui S.A.L. Offshore.  Al-Amin also holds a majority ownership stake in, and is the general manager of, Lama Foods S.A.R.L., a food import and trade company.  Additionally, al-Amin is a founder, the majority shareholder, and the managing director of Impulse S.A.R.L., an advertising company.

The seven companies designated today should not be viewed as an exhaustive list of companies owned or controlled by al-Amin, and the regulated community remains responsible for conducting necessary due diligence and maintaining compliance with OFAC's 50 percent rule.

Additionally, al-Amin and the seven entities designated today are subject to secondary sanctions pursuant to the Hizballah Financial Sanctions Regulations, which implements the Hizballah International Financing Prevention Act of 2015.  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 that knowingly facilitates a significant transaction for Hizballah, or a person acting on behalf of or at the direction of, or owned or controlled by, Hizballah.