US sanctions against Gebran Bassil, former head of Lebanese diplomacy

Gebran Bassil, head of the Free Patriotic Movement (CPL), on October 22 in Baabda (Lebanon).

This is not a real surprise, as the announcement had been the subject of rumors for months in Lebanon. Nevertheless: by sanctioning, Friday, November 6, Gebran Bassil, son-in-law of President Michel Aoun and a leading ally of Hezbollah, the US Treasury is creating a shock wave on the political scene. Targeting this influential figure, at the head of the main Christian formation, appears to be one of the last efforts of the Trump administration, given at the outset, to isolate pro-Iranian Hezbollah. Sanctions could increase discord in a fractured country still awaiting a new government, amid financial bankruptcy.

The former head of Lebanese diplomacy finds himself banned from entering the United States. It is under financial sanctions – such as the freezing of assets in the United States. Justifying its decision in the name of the fight against corruption, the US Treasury accuses Mr. Bassil of being ” to the best “ of this scourge which plagues political life in Lebanon. He accuses him of having indulged in favoritism, influence peddling, and having been “Involved in project approval having led to embezzlement of public funds for the benefit of relatives when he was Minister of Energy, one of the portfolios he has occupied in more than ten years of participation in successive governments.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, a “hawk” of the Trump house’s US maximum pressure policy against the pro-Iranian camp, has been more explicit, accusing Gebran Bassil of having “Contributed to the system of corruption and political patronage that plagues Lebanon, which aided and encouraged Hezbollah’s destabilizing activities. ” The Shiite armed movement, an ally of Tehran, is a bête noire of the United States – and of its Israeli ally – which classifies it as “terrorist”.

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On the eve of the American elections, Washington’s attempt to weaken the powerful party, engaged in the war in Syria alongside Bashar Al-Assad, and whose influence divides the Lebanese, had strengthened: two former ministers had were sanctioned in September. But this is the first time that a major Christian politician has been targeted. Mr. Bassil was a major architect of the agreement signed in 2006 between the Free Patriotic Movement (CPL), which he now heads, and Hezbollah. This alliance offered the Party of God a Christian “cover”, while Michel Aoun ensured access to the presidency in 2016 after a long political paralysis. A position that his son-in-law had aspired – until now – to land at the next deadline. In recent months, the press had echoed growing dissension between CPL and Hezbollah. But the Christian leader did not break up.

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