“Hezbollah’s entire financial apparatus presently rests on the Lebanese banking system, which no one wants to touch,” says Uzi Shaya, a former Israeli intelligence official.
Over the past year, Hezbollah has been mired in a severe financial crisis, and Iran has been forced to adopt unorthodox methods to fund the organization under US sanctions. Consequently, cash is used in a large portion of this financial activity. The US administration recently released a comprehensive document detailing Iran’s efforts to circumvent sanctions. The aim of the document, earmarked for use by foreign governments, is to sever the numerous cash pipelines used by Tehran.
These counter-efforts have forced Iran to put increasing faith in cash. For example, Iran’s foreign ministry delivers some $100 million in cash to Hezbollah annually: Iranian diplomats arrive in Beirut via commercial flights carrying suitcases stuffed with dollars and hand them over to Hezbollah officials. The money itself is categorized as diplomatic mail, while the couriers themselves exploit the immunity provided by their diplomatic passports. Although the identities of those involved and the transfer dates are known to Western agencies, the channel is still active.
It appears that the economic campaign against Hezbollah won’t succeed if Lebanon remains out of bounds.
“Hezbollah’s entire financial apparatus presently rests on the Lebanese banking system, which no one wants to touch,” says Uzi Shaya, the former Israeli intelligence official and the person who led the campaign to shut down Lebanese Canadian Bank – which had been one of Hezbollah’s main sources of funds.
“An organization the size of Hezbollah cannot be sustained with suitcases of cash,” Shaya adds.