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A Match Made in Heaven: The Hezbollah-Amal Nexus

Over the past decades, Hezbollah has built a well-oiled, multi-billion-dollar illicit finance and drug-trafficking machine in Latin America that launders organized crime’s ill-gotten gains through multiple waypoints in the Western Hemisphere, West Africa, Europe, and the Middle East, generating hundreds of millions of annual revenues. Those in charge back in Beirut, Baghdad, and Tehran, are party stalwarts who rake the profits to fund Hezbollah’s stranglehold on Lebanese society, sustain its mobilization as Iran’s regional proxy in multiple theatres of war, and plot terror attacks overseas. 

Their lieutenants, however, are a different story: party lines are blurred in the murky waters of illicit finance. There, in the vast universe of trafficking, money laundering, and smuggling, the entrepreneur rises above the ideologue, the militant, and the militia fighter to take the front seat. Party membership matters little, where money is made for the cause. As my colleague, Tony Badran argues, “What matters is Hezbollah’s relationship with Shi’a society, both in Lebanon and in the diaspora, where familial ties, business connections, and patronage networks extend to Amal, the other Shi’a party in Lebanon.” In the realm of fundraising, Amal and Hezbollah followers have over time become so intertwined that telling them apart has become almost impossible. Especially across the Shi’a diaspora, it is often Amal businessmen who tend to Hezbollah’s fundraising needs.

Acknowledging this overlap, rather than proving a formal bond to Hezbollah’s party structure, is key to unmasking the terror-finance networks feeding into Hezbollah’s global fundraising efforts. Amal too, should be a target for U.S. sanctions. Without its members and their support, Hezbollah’s overseas illicit finance operations might not come to fruition so easily.