Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Remarks at a UN Security Council Briefing on the Situation in Lebanon

Rodney Hunter
Political Coordinator
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York City
December 19, 2018


Thank you, Mr. President. Thank you, Under-Secretary-General Lacroix, for your briefing today.

Over the past few weeks, we have seen images and news of tunnels discovered in northern Israel. As the Under-Secretary-General has told us this morning, the UN Interim Force in Lebanon has confirmed so far the existence of four tunnels close to the Blue Line and to date has independently verified two of these tunnels cross the Blue Line. UNIFIL has also determined that two of those tunnels constitute violations of UN Security Council Resolution 1701. We can only speculate how many more will be uncovered in the coming days and weeks.

These facts are indisputable, and they should leave no doubt as to who is responsible. The United States has taken Hezbollah's threats to the security of Israel and the Israeli people at face value, and it is high time that this Council and the international community do so as well.

This Council's differing views on Hezbollah have undermined the international community's efforts to support peace and stability along the Blue Line and between Israel and Lebanon.

UNIFIL and the Office of the UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon play a critical role in assuring that peace and stability. We call upon them to proactively implement their respective mandates to advance efforts toward a durable peace between Israel and Lebanon.

It is both regrettable and incomprehensible that some Council members dismiss the threat Hezbollah poses and its ability to act as a spoiler to this Council's broader objective for peace between Israel and Lebanon.

It is time that this Security Council acts as one and speaks in one voice. Hezbollah is a serious and a real threat. This reality must underpin all of our actions moving forward from today.

To those who are not yet convinced that Hezbollah is a serious threat to the peace and security of Israel, of Lebanon, and of the region, I ask you this: what further proof do you need? Did we forget the violence in 2006? Do we not hear Nasrallah bragging of his vast stocks of "precise" weapons and his ability to hit anywhere inside Israel?

We appreciate that Israel and Lebanon expressed to UNIFIL that they have no intention to escalate the situation along the Blue Line and will continue to work with UNIFIL to this end. We urge both partners to continue to exercise restraint and to utilize fully UNIFIL's liaison capabilities. UNIFIL must be in a position to exercise its mandate to the fullest extent possible.

But can we know with certainty that Hezbollah is equally committed to maintaining peace and stability? This answer is no, we cannot.

The United States strongly supports Israel's efforts to defend its sovereignty and unconditionally affirms Israel's right to self-defense.

We call on President Michel Aoun and the Lebanese government to undertake all possible efforts to halt Hezbollah's illicit tunneling into Israel and to ensure that there is no escalation of tensions or violence.

This includes President Aoun directing the Lebanese Armed Forces to act promptly to investigate the suspected starting points of the tunnels.

We also call upon UNIFIL to take all necessary measures to ensure that its area of operations is not used for hostile activities and to ensure that these tunnels do not pose a threat to peace and security. UNIFIL must be provided all possible relevant information regarding, and full access to, the suspected tunnel locations in southern Lebanon if it is to complete its independent assessment.

The United States strongly supports the Lebanese Armed Forces as the sole legitimate defender of Lebanon. We continue to work with others in the international community to provide assistance to the LAF to allow it to perform its mission as effectively as possible.

More broadly, we also call on Iran and its agents to stop their aggressive behavior and provocation in the region, which pose an unacceptable threat to Israeli and regional security.

We thank UNIFIL for the constructive liaison role the mission has played between the Governments of Lebanon and Israel in order to facilitate clear communication, preserve stability along the Blue Line, and document these incidents.

However, we urge the mission to continue its heightened security posture and visible presence in southern Lebanon and to actively and regularly update the Security Council on this very serious and ongoing issue.

Thank you, Mr. President.


U.S. hopes Lebanon's next government will work with it: State Department official

December 18, 2018
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States hopes Lebanon's next government will work with it on areas of mutual interest, a State Department official said on Tuesday, and expressed concern over Iran-backed Shi'ite Muslim group Hezbollah's rising clout in the country.
"We hope Lebanon's next government will build a stable and secure Lebanon that is committed to peace, responsive to the needs of the Lebanese people, and working with the United States on areas of mutual interest," the official told Reuters.
Lebanon is expected to form a new national unity government in the next few days, politicians said on Tuesday, raising hopes for an end to more than seven months of wrangling that has darkened the outlook for its struggling economy.
Hezbollah is expected to get three ministries in the upcoming cabinet for the first time, instead of two, including the health ministry.

Monday, December 17, 2018


17 Dec 2018  UNIFIL has been actively following up on developments relating to the discovery of tunnels along the Blue Line by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). 

IDF has informed UNIFIL that they have so far discovered four tunnels along the Blue Line.

UNIFIL technical teams have undertaken a number of site inspections south of the Blue Line in order to ascertain the facts.

Based on UNIFIL's independent assessment, UNIFIL has so far confirmed the existence of all the four tunnels close to the Blue Line in northern Israel.

After further technical investigations conducted independently in accordance with its mandate, UNIFIL at this stage can confirm that two of the tunnels cross the Blue Line. These constitute violations of UN Security Council resolution 1701.

This is a matter of serious concern and UNIFIL technical investigations continue.

UNIFIL has requested the Lebanese authorities to ensure urgent follow-up actions in accordance with the responsibilities of the Government of Lebanon pursuant to resolution 1701.

The situation in UNIFIL 's area of operation remains calm. UNIFIL's leadership is fully engaged with the parties to ensure stability along the Blue Line and prevent misunderstandings in order to keep the area of operation calm.

Friday, December 07, 2018

Lebanese Businessman Tied by Treasury Department to Hezbollah Pleads Guilty to Money Laundering Conspiracy in Furtherance of Violations of U.S. Sanctions

Department of Justice
Office of Public Affairs
Thursday, December 6, 2018

Kassim Tajideen, the operator of a network of businesses in Lebanon and Africa whom the U.S. Department of the Treasury designated as an important financial supporter to the Hezbollah terror organization, pleaded guilty today to charges associated with evading U.S. sanctions imposed on him.

The announcement was made by Acting Attorney General Matthew G. Whitaker; Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department's Criminal Division; Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers; U.S. Attorney Jessie K. Liu for the District of Columbia; Special Agent in Charge Raymond Donovan of the Special Operations Division of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA); Special Agent in Charge Valerie A. Nickerson of the DEA's New Jersey Field Division and Commissioner Kevin K. McAleenan of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

Tajideen, 63, of Beirut, Lebanon, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Court Judge Reggie B. Walton in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, to conspiracy to launder monetary instruments, in furtherance of violating the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA).  Tajideen was designated by the U.S. Department of the Treasury as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist in May 2009 as a result of his provision of significant financial support to Hezbollah, which was named a Foreign Terrorist Organization by the U.S. Department of State.  This designation prohibited Tajideen from being involved in, or benefiting from transactions, involving U.S. persons or companies without a license from the Department of the Treasury.

"This Department of Justice has put a target on Hezbollah," Acting Attorney General Whitaker said. "In January, we started the Hezbollah Financing and Narcoterrorism Team, and in October, former Attorney General Sessions named Hezbollah one of the five priority organizations for our Transnational Organized Crime Task Force.  The DEA worked for three years to bring this prosecution of a Treasury Department-designated terrorist for sanctions violations to successful completion.  I want to thank the prosecutors and agents Trial Attorney Joseph Palazzo and AUSAs Thomas Gillice, Luke Jones, Karen Seifert, Deborah Curtis, and SAUSA Jacqueline Barkett for helping us achieve this victory today. We are going to keep targeting Hezbollah and other terrorist groups and their supporters, and we are going to keep winning."

"This guilty plea demonstrates our commitment to vigorously investigate and prosecute violations of U.S. economic sanctions," said U.S. Attorney Liu. "Through the efforts of law enforcement here and abroad, this defendant has been held accountable for violating laws protecting our national security and foreign policy interests."

"This is the latest example of DEA's recent successes against Hezbollah's global criminal support network and reflects DEA's determination in combatting this transnational criminal organization," said Special Agent in Charge Donovan.

 According to the statement of facts signed by Tajideen in conjunction with his plea, after his designation, Tajideen conspired with at least five other persons to conduct over $50 million in transactions with U.S. businesses that violated these prohibitions.  In addition, Tajideen and his co-conspirators knowingly engaged in transactions outside of the United States, which involved transmissions of as much as $1 billion through the United States financial system from places outside the United States.

The plea, which is contingent upon the Court's approval, calls for an agreed-upon sentence of 60 months in prison. The plea agreement also calls for Tajideen to pay $50 million as a criminal forfeiture in advance of his sentencing.  Tajideen has been detained since extradition to the United States in March 2017 after his arrest overseas.  Sentencing is scheduled to occur on Jan. 18, 2019.

This guilty plea is the result of a three-year investigation by the DEA's Special Operations Division (SOD)/Counter Narcoterrorism Operations Center (CNTOC) and the DEA New Jersey Field Division, with the assistance by CBP. Assistance was provided by the Department of the Treasury's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN).

Tajideen's case falls under DEA's Project Cassandra, which targets Hezbollah's global criminal support network - dubbed by the DEA as the Business Affairs Component (BAC) - that operates as a logistics, procurement and financing arm for Hezbollah.  This investigation and others are part of the Department of Justice's Hezbollah Financing and Narcoterrorism Team ("HFNT"), a component of the Department's Transnational Organized Crime initiative (TOC).  The HFNT was formed in January 2018 to ensure an aggressive and coordinated approach to prosecutions and investigations, including Project Cassandra cases, targeting the individuals and networks supporting Hezbollah.  Comprised of experienced international narcotics trafficking, terrorism, organized crime, and money laundering prosecutors and investigators, the HFNT works closely with partners like the DEA, the Department of the Treasury, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, among others, to advance and facilitate prosecutions of Hezbollah and its support network in appropriate cases.

This case is being prosecuted by the Criminal Division's Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section, U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia, the DEA and CPB's National Targeting Center Counter Network Division, with assistance from the Criminal Division's Office of International Affairs and the Counterintelligence and Export Control Section of the National Security Division.

The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Joseph Palazzo of the Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Thomas A. Gillice, Luke Jones, Karen Seifert and Deborah Curtis and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Jacqueline L. Barkett of the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia.

Criminal Division
National Security Division (NSD)
Press Release Number: