Hezbollah Financier Extradited to the U.S. on Sanctions Evasion Charges

Hezbollah Financier Extradited to the U.S. on Sanctions Evasion Charges


Hezbollah Financier Extradited to the U.S. on Sanctions Evasion Charges

Mohammad Bazzi, a dual Lebanese-Belgian citizen accused by the United States of financing Lebanon's Hezbollah has been extradited from Romania and faced sanctions evasion and money laundering charges on Wednesday in Brooklyn federal court, prosecutors said. Bazzi, who Washington says has provided millions of dollars to Hezbollah, was arrested in February on charges of covertly selling real estate he owned in Michigan and transferring the funds abroad, violating U.S. sanctions laws.  

Bazzi was extradited on Tuesday and pleaded not guilty in a Wednesday court hearing before U.S. Magistrate Judge Peggy Kuo, according to a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's office in Brooklyn. He was ordered detained pending trial. The U.S. Treasury Department placed Bazzi, 58, on its sanctions list in 2018 over his alleged ties to Hezbollah, which Washington considers a terrorist organization.  

Iranian Foreign Minister Visits Lebanon, Urges Election of President 

Iran’s foreign minister called on Lebanon Thursday to overcome political deadlock and elect a president, urging foreign governments not to interfere in the choice. “We encourage all sides in Lebanon to expedite the election of a president,” Hossein Amir-Abdollahian told a press conference in the capital Beirut. “We will support any election and agreement reached between all Lebanese sides…and we call on other foreign parties to respect the choice of the Lebanese without interfering in the country’s affairs,” he added.  

In the throes of a crushing economic crisis, Lebanon has been without a president for almost six months amid deadlock between entrenched political barons. A caretaker cabinet with limited powers has been at the helm since May last year after legislative polls gave no side a clear majority. 

Abdollahian also toured Lebanon’s border with Israel Friday during his visit and was photographed looking out at the Jewish state. He took the tour with a number of Lebanese parliamentarians and members of Hezbollah, after meeting with Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah. Abdollahian said Nasrallah assured him that “the Lebanese and Palestinian resistance [to Israel] are in their best condition ever,” according to Iranian media reports. He said the two also discussed the recent Iranian-Saudi deal to restore diplomatic ties, and its effect on the region.  

At the lookout point toward Israel from the town of Maroun al-Ras, Amir-Abdollahian said, “positive developments in the region will lead to the collapse of the Zionist entity,” adding that “Zionists understand only strength.”

Israel and the Palestinian Territories 

Israel Said to Shell Hezbollah Position in Southern Syria, Drop Threatening Flyers 

The Israeli military shelled a site in southern Syria, just across the border from the Golan Heights, early Monday morning, Syrian media reported, with an opposition journalist claiming the position was used by the Iran-backed Hezbollah terror group. 

Shortly after the strike, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) reportedly dropped threatening pamphlets in the area, warning Syrian soldiers to stop cooperating with Hezbollah. The early morning artillery strike against a Syrian Army observation post near the Druze town of Hader in the northern Quneitra province was reported by Sham FM, a Syrian radio station affiliated with the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad. 

According to an opposition-affiliated journalist, flyers were dropped in the area, in which the Israeli military appeared to take responsibility for the overnight strike. The IDF usually does not publicly acknowledge carrying out strikes in Syria, under its general policy of ambiguity regarding its efforts against Hezbollah in the country. 

The flyers, which were written in Arabic and addressed to Syrian Army soldiers, matched the style of similar leaflets that have been dropped in Syria in the past. The IDF refused to comment on the matter. “We are closely watching and aware of the ongoing intelligence cooperation with Hezbollah within the Syrian army’s positions in the region, including near the Israeli border. Your cooperation with Hezbollah has…brought you more harm than benefit. Cooperation with Hezbollah leads to harm!” the flyer read.  

The flyer also included a map marking the towns of Hader and Quneitra, and images of two men, a senior Syrian officer, alleged to have been aiding Hezbollah, and a senior commander in the Iran-backed group. The men in the images, apparently taken by military surveillance cameras during a tour of the area, were named as Maj. Gen. Samer ad-Dana, Syria’s chief of military intelligence, and Tariq Maher, the commander of Hezbollah’s intelligence headquarters in Syria.  


Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi to Visit Syria Next Week 

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi will visit Damascus next week for two days, a senior regional source close to the Syrian government told Reuters on Friday. The visit will be the first by an Iranian president to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad since war broke out in Syria in 2011. Syria’s al-Watan newspaper reported that Raisi’s trip would feature a series of agreements, particularly economic cooperation. Tehran had previously granted Damascus lines of credit. This comes amid a broader rapprochement between Syria and other Arab states in the region.  

Defense Ministers of Syria, Turkey, Iran, and Russia Meet in Moscow 

The defense ministers of Syria, Turkey, Iran, and Russia met in Moscow this week to discuss Syria. UANI spotted the deputy commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ (IRGC) Quds Force Mohammad Reza Fallahzadeh in the Iranian delegation visiting the Kremlin.