Hezbollah’s silence these days is very telling, and the reason behind that is elaborated by a study carried out by the Middle East and North Africa Geopolitical Center for Strategic Studies and Research, entitled, “Hezbollah’s project to take over the Lebanese economy and banking sector”.
The study indicates that there is a systematic attack that is targeting the banking sector in Lebanon, both central and commercial. According to the study, Hezbollah aims to shift blame from itself and its political network that has a hold over authority in Lebanon and onto the banking sector, especially that Hezbollah was for the first time able to win a majority in parliament. The successive attacks against the Association of Bankers by the political, partisan and media forces affiliated with Hezbollah, are a translation of the plan Hezbollah set and is executing alongside its allies. This plan aims to destroy the Lebanese economy to set the stage for a change in Lebanon and its economy to subsume it under the Iranian project by changing its political, civilizational and cultural identity as part of the Arab world at the regional level, and the free world at the international level.
The study warns that the situation has become so dangerous that it goes beyond the interests and rights of depositors and the fate of their deposits on both the short- and long-terms, and strategically involves Lebanon’s capacity to exit the current crisis on the long-term due to structural changes that Hezbollah is trying to impose on the Lebanese political system and social composition, and consequently the free economy. Hezbollah and its political network believe that they succeeded in transforming the 17 October Revolution’s goals and shifting the Lebanese people’s resentment from the real reasons behind the collapse, which is Hezbollah subsuming Lebanon under the Iranian project and consequently isolating it from the Arab world and the world in general and subjecting it to the economic sanctions that have halted the economy.
Hezbollah negatively impacted the economic, banking, and financial situation in Lebanon by taking advantage of people’s emotions, pains and hardships, directing their resentment towards the Lebanese army and security forces in one instance, then to the central bank in another. The aim of this was to transform Lebanon’s problem from that of sovereignty to a class struggle, to shift focus and preventing the people from targeting the real reasons behind the crisis, i.e., the political and security instability that Hezbollah’s arms and wars have caused, and the economic cost they had on Lebanon and its negative effect on the economy and public funds, and consequently on the miserable conditions under which the Lebanese have lived since Hezbollah started implementing its plan to take over the Lebanese state and its institutions after the Syrian army withdrew from Lebanon in 2005.
After Hezbollah took over the military and security strategy of the Lebanese state by taking over the presidency, the government and a majority in parliament, it proceeded in connecting Lebanon to the Iranian project by focusing on the economy and its foundations, in an attempt to employ it in its war projects, after its funding was affected by the US sanctions on Iran. This includes companies, institutions, individuals, and Lebanese and non-Lebanese banks that are helping Hezbollah escape the impact of the US sanctions.
The study concludes by warning that Hezbollah’s plan for the next phase is based on disrupting the Lebanese banking system, which is a motor for the Lebanese economy, after it failed to subdue the Governor of the Central Bank to its conditions and force banks not to abide by the US sanctions, especially after those sanctions forced Jammal Trust Bank in September 2019 to shut down.
Hezbollah’s project is based on replacing the role of the Lebanese banking system (both the Central Bank and commercial banks) in the Lebanese monetary economy, allowing it to take hold of the joints of Lebanese imports and trade. This would allow it to control the money in Lebanese hands after it had been withdrawn from the banks out of fear of devaluation of the Lebanese pound and the fate of their bank deposits.
The banks estimate that the money withdrawn amounts to more than $6 billion and 7,000 billion Lebanese pounds. Hezbollah hopes to make use of this large sum by employing it in its economic and commercial network to control part of foreign trade through smuggling and internal markets by speculating on smuggled Syrian, Iraqi, Iranian, and Turkish goods. This would allow it to bypass US sanctions by escaping legal supervision and the Lebanese banking system.
This same information explains how Hezbollah plans to claim that the disruption of the Lebanese banking system leads to the disruption of current traditional trade based on credit and transfers, knowing that Lebanon’s imports are valued at around $20 billion annually. Hezbollah seeks to replace his traditional trade system by claiming that importation through the banking sector will be disrupted and Lebanese markets will lose many commodities. This would leave the door wide open for Hezbollah to smuggle commodities to meet the demands of the Lebanese markets.
Based on this information, Hezbollah is getting involved in imports much more than before, thereby achieving two strategic aims. First, it can fund itself through taking over borders and maritime and air facilities, both legal and otherwise, to bring in commodities and sell them to generate profit.
Second, it can secure markets for Syrian and Iranian goods (including Iranian medicines) and for companies and businessmen in Hezbollah’s constellation who are considered part of its financial network. In both cases, Hezbollah would have successfully bypassed US sanctions and the attempts at drying up the sources of funding for both the Syrian and Iranian regimes and their proxies in the area. Consequently, they would be able to fund Iran and its proxies’ expansion in the region.
Consequently, there is fear that the money the Lebanese are keeping in their homes is turned into a financial reserve more substantial than those in the central bank. Based on this, Hezbollah and its allies in Prime Minister Hassan Diab’s government insisted on not paying the Lebanese state’s dues in March, estimated at $1.2 billion which the government could have easily paid without much risk on the central bank’s foreign currency reserves as it prepared to enter negotiations over how to restructure the public debt with lenders and the International Monetary Fund and agree on reforms that may have removed Hezbollah’s hand from the Lebanese state’s resources and treasury.
Hezbollah does not want this to happen. Putting an end to its smuggling operations, through land, sea, and air and its evasion of customs and taxes, which are its financial front, would provide the Lebanese treasury with more than $1.5 billion annually. Also, ending the control which groups who are known to be allies of the Shiite duo (Amal and Hezbollah) have over fuel and oil imports and eliminating the deficit of the Electricity of Lebanon, which came as a result of the government’s decision to rent out ships to generate electricity instead of building power stations, in addition to looting and refraining from paying, which account for around $1 billion each year.
The Lebanese government’s failure to pay its debts means that the banks, which hold more than half of the treasury bonds issued by the Lebanese government, will not be able to retrieve their money when it is due. This would allow Hezbollah to smuggle goods and make illegitimate profits by increasing its share of Lebanese imports. This, of course, does not redeem Lebanon’s large looters.