WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. House of Representatives unanimously voted to pass a Senate-approved bill that imposes tough new sanctions on financial institutions that knowingly do business with Shiite Iran’s terrorist proxy Hezbollah, clearing the way for President Obama to sign the bill into law.
Under the bipartisan Hezbollah International Financing Prevention Act (H.R. 2297), the Obama administration is also required to submit to Congress reports Hezbollah’s drug trafficking and transnational criminal activities worldwide, including human trafficking, as well as a list of countries that support the group or in which “[Hezbollah or any of its agents or affiliates, conducts significant fundraising, financing, or money laundering activities.”
With respect to the list of countries, the Obama administration is ordered to provide an assessment of whether the government of each identified nation is “taking adequate measure to disrupt the global logistics networks of [Hezbollah] within the territory of the country; and… a description of measures being taken by the United States to encourage that government” to take action.
Moreover, the measure further requires the Obama administration to submit to Congress “a list of methods that [Hezbollah], or any of its agents or affiliates, utilizes to raise or transfer funds, including trade-based money laundering, the use of foreign exchange houses, and free-trade zones.”
The bill also targets for sanctions any provider, including satellite and Internet, that does business with Al-Manar, Hezbollah’s television channel.
House lawmakers approved the legislation Wednesday by a 425 to 0 vote. On Nov. 17, the Senate unanimously voted in favor of the measure. The original bill was reportedly authored by Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and New York Rep. Eliot Engel, the top Democrat on the panel.
Congress’ approval of the bipartisan legislation comes before Iran receives billions of dollars in sanction relief funds, a portion of which Obama and members of his administration have conceded will likely be used to fund the Lebanon-based Shiite militant movement Hezbollah.
Up to $150 billion in Iranian assets could be unfrozen once sanctions agaisnt the Shiite powerhouse are lifted as part of the nuclear deal negotiated by the U.S. and five other world powers.
An unnamed senior administration official told Agence France-Presse (AFP) that President Obama will sign the bill into law, adding that the administration has worked with lawmakers for years “to intensify the pressure against the Hezbollah terrorist organization.”
Hezbollah, which has been described by analysts as a “narco-terror” group, maintains a presence in the United States and Latin America, where it generates millions of dollars through drug trafficking, human smuggling, money laundering and other illicit activities.
A U.S. military official told Breitbart News, on condition of anonymity for lack of authorization to discuss the matter publicly, that Iran is using an estimated 80-plus Shiite “cultural centers” in Latin America to expand its covert recruitment operations.
The so-called “cultural centers,” operated by Hezbollah and Tehran’s Revolutionary Guards-Quds Force, are continuously multiplying, noted the official.
“As the foremost state sponsor of terrorism, Iran’s involvement in the region and these cultural centers is a matter for concern, and its diplomatic, economic, and political engagement is closely monitored,” Gen. John Kelly, the commander of U.S. Southern Command, told lawmakers earlier this year.
Breitbart News found that the number of “cultural centers” in Latin America have more than doubled, from 36 in 2012 to more than 80 today.
“Iran has established more than 80 ‘cultural centers’ in a region with an extremely small Muslim population. The purported purpose of these centers is to improve Iran’s image, promote Shi’a Islam, and increase Iran’s political influence in the region,” explained Gen. Kelly.
Nevertheless, the State Department last year reported that “Iranian influence in Latin America and the Caribbean is waning.”
Hezbollah is “an Iranian proxy responsible for hundreds of American deaths,” said House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) ahead of Wednesday’s vote.
“[Nuclear] deal or no deal, we cannot allow Iran’s threatening activities to continue without consequence,” he declared.
Hezbollah has been officially designated a terrorist organization by the United States.