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Copyright © 2019 The American Israel Public Affairs Committee

Washington Brief: A Recap of News from the Hill and Beyond (Jan. 15, 2016 - Feb. 12, 2016)

DEA, International Authorities Expose Major Hezbollah Drug and Money Laundering Ring On Feb. 1, the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) uncovered a massive Hezbollah drug trafficking and money laundering ring.  The DEA, in coordination with numerous international law enforcement agencies in seven other countries, arrested members of the terrorist organization’s External Security Organization Business Affairs Component. They were found utilizing drug trafficking money to purchase weapons in support of terrorist activities in Syria.  The ongoing investigation is part of the DEA’s Project Cassandra, an initiative focused on the international Hezbollah network responsible for moving large quantities of cocaine in the United States and Europe. The network has established ties to South American drug cartels. The investigation originated from a previous inquiry that had been conducted into the Lebanese-Canadian Bank. “These drug trafficking and money laundering schemes utilized by the Business Affairs Component provide a revenue and weapons stream for an international terrorist organization responsible for devastating terror attacks around the world,” said DEA Acting Deputy Administrator Jack Riley.  “DEA and our international partners are relentless in our commitment to disrupt any attempt by terrorists and terrorist organizations to leverage the drug trade against our nations. DEA and our partners will continue to dismantle networks who exploit the nexus between drugs and terror using all available law enforcement mechanisms.”  Click here to read the DEA’s full statement.

Department of Treasury Sanctions Key Hezbollah Financial Support Network

On Jan. 28, the U.S. Department of Treasury sanctioned two key Hezbollah-affiliated money launderers, Mohamad Noureddine and Hamdi Zaher El Dine, and a company affiliated with Noureddine.

Noureddine directly used funds from Hezbollah to back his company, Trade Point International S.A.R.L. He also transferred significant amounts of money to support the terrorist organization’s commercial investment activity in Lebanon and Iraq, and lent his financial services to Hezbollah members across Asia, Europe, the Middle East and the United States.

El Dine, an employee of Trade Point International S.A.R.L., assisted Noureddine in transferring money to U.S.-designated Hezbollah member Adham Tabaja and his company Al-Inmaa Engineering.

“Hezbollah needs individuals like Mohamad Noureddine and Hamdi Zaher El Dine to launder criminal proceeds for use in terrorism and political destabilization,” said Acting Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Adam Szubin. “We will continue to target this vulnerability, and expose and disrupt such enablers of terrorism wherever we find them.”

Hezbollah was designated a Foreign Terrorist Organization by the United States in 1997.

Click here to read the press statement from the Treasury Department.

President Submits Fiscal Year 2017 Budget with Key Pro-Israel Provisions

On Feb. 9, President Barack Obama released his plans for the fiscal year 2017 budget, including $3.1 billion in security assistance to Israel.

If authorized, the funding would fulfill the ninth year of a 10-year Memorandum of Understanding between the United States and Israel.

The budget proposal also requests authorization for $145.8 million in U.S.-Israel Cooperative Missile Defense programs, including funding for missile interceptors Iron Dome, David’s Sling and Arrow 2 and 3.

Click here to see the president’s full 2017 budget request. Congress Adopts Anti-BDS Provision in Customs Bill On Feb. 11, Congress approved a provision in the Trade Facilitation and Enforcement Act, also known as the Customs bill, to combat harmful anti-Israel trade and commercial practices.   The provision puts the U.S. firmly on record opposing BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) and supporting enhanced commercial ties between the United States and Israel. It further establishes new requirements for administration reporting on an array of global BDS activities, including the participation of foreign companies in political boycotts of Israel. Additionally, the measure provides important legal protections for American companies operating in Israel. This pro-Israel provision builds upon an anti-BDS amendment in the "Fast Track" Trade Promotion Authority bill that targets harmful trade and commercial practices against Israel. Authored by Sens. Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Rob Portman (R-OH) in the Senate and Reps. Peter Roskam (R-IL) and Juan Vargas (D-CA) in the House, the amendment was passed into law last June and addresses efforts by foreign governments to boycott, divest from and sanction Israel. Click here to read AIPAC’s press release on the anti-BDS measure.

House Committee Holds Hearing on Victims of Palestinian Terrorism in Israel

On Feb. 2, the House Oversight Subcommittee on National Security held a hearing focused on seeking justice for U.S. victims of Palestinian terrorism in Israel.

The panel featured Sarri Singer, founder and director of Strength to Strength, as well as a victim of Palestinian terrorism; Peter Schwartz, the uncle of Ezra Schwartz, who was murdered by Palestinian terrorists in November 2015; Arnold Roth, whose daughter was killed by Hamas in 2001; and Brad Wiegmann, Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the National Security Division at the Department of Justice (DOJ).

The DOJ “has not been able to cite one example for this committee of even a single terrorist who has been prosecuted in the U.S. for any of the 64 attacks against Americans in Israel,” said Chairman Ron DeSantis (R-FL) in his opening statement. “Indeed, many of these terrorists roam free as the result of prisoner exchanges or evasion.”

“This is not what Congress intended when it created the DOJ’s Office of Justice for Victims of Overseas Terrorism (OVT) in 2005”, DeSantis added. “This is not what the American people want, and this does not provide justice to the victims’ families that have been so tragically elusive.”

“The mission of the OVT remains critical in the face of relentless terrorism plots and attacks prepared by the Islamic State, Hamas, Al-Qaeda, Jabhat al-Nusra, and other terrorist organizations worldwide,” said the subcommittee’s Ranking Member Stephen Lynch (D-MA).

“While I cannot discuss these investigations today or the facts of specific cases, it’s important to note the absence of public charges associated with a particular overseas attack does not mean that there are no charges, or that no such charges will be brought,” Wiegmann told the committee.

Schwartz highlighted the “many unanswered questions” about the attack that claimed his nephew’s life and the lack of U.S. action to investigate the case.

Singer, who was injured in a 2003 Palestinian terror attack on a bus in Jerusalem, said that “the government’s track record in extraditing or even seeking extradition of Palestinian terrorists who have murdered American citizens is nonexistent. I grew up believing that my country would be there for me and protect me no matter where I was in the world. These last years have left me feeling let down.”

Director of U.S. Missile Defense Agency Calls for Closer Cooperation with Israel

On Jan. 19, Vice Adm. James Syring, director of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA), called for increased missile defense cooperation between the United States and Israel.

Speaking at a Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) event, Syring praised Israel’s missile defense strategy and predicted a co-production agreement for the David’s Sling Weapon System would be reached between the two countries.

“We're obviously tied very closely to Israel and what they've done with Iron Dome in terms of funding. And I mean the Congress in this case,” said Syring.

“I think you'll see us work closely with them on a similar co-production agreement [for David’s Sling] that we have with Iron Dome. So that's good for them and it's good for the United States… So I think that in particular the Israeli example is a great example,” he added.

David’s Sling is designed to provide Israel and America with effective and affordable protection against long-range artillery rockets, short to medium-range ballistic missiles, aircraft and low-flying cruise missiles. Since 2006, the United States has provided $1.1 billion in research and development funding for David’s Sling. On Dec. 21, 2015, David’s Sling passed its final series of tests, putting it on track for deployment in 2016.

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