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- As Delivered -

WASHINGTON—Representative Eliot L. Engel, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, today delivered the following remarks in the United States House of Representatives supporting the Hizballah International Financing Prevention Act of 2015 (H.R.2297):

“Thank you Mr. Speaker.  The House first passed this bipartisan legislation on May 14th by a vote of 423 to zero. Now that’s as bipartisan as you can get.  On November 17th, the Senate sent the bill back to us with a number of very modest changes.  By passing it again today, we send it to the President’s desk.

“I want to commend my friend, Chairman Royce, for being the driving force behind this very, very important bill.  When Chairman Royce introduced this bill, I was glad to join as an original cosponsor.  I also want to acknowledge Representatives Deutch, Meadows, and Meng for their hard work on this important legislation.  

“Mr. Speaker, over a decade ago, I authored the Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act, which is now law.  My partner, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, and I pushed very hard for many years to get this bill finally passed by both houses and signed into law by the President.  This measure aimed to end Syrian support for terrorism—including support to groups such as Hezbollah.

“Since then, Hezbollah has found new ways to siphon resources and expand its reach, all the while working toward the same goal: to undermine Lebanese political independence and support Iran’s dangerous agenda throughout the region. 

“It’s a bit ironic that the group that really controls Lebanon today is not really the Lebanese government.  But it’s Hezbollah, which really has the same type of duplication.  But they are stronger—militarily—than the Lebanese government.  And that’s a shame for Lebanon.  It really is.  And we know the aggression that Hezbollah has had with Lebanon wars against Israel.  And being Iran’s proxy in Syria and doing all kinds of things that are detrimental to the world. 

“Our laws needed to crack down on this group, of Hezbollah, needs to keep pace.  Again: Their same goal, their goal is to undermine Lebanese political independence and support Iran’s dangerous goals.  We need to be one step ahead of them.

“Iran is the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism.  Let’s not forget that.  And while the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and its Quds Force spread instability throughout the region, Iran’s most destructive terrorist tool has been Hezbollah.

“Among other things, this heinous group was behind the bombings of the U.S. embassy and marine barracks in Lebanon, and the Israeli embassy and Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

“Hezbollah’s nefarious activities are not limited to terrorism.  The group has put down roots in drug trafficking and other forms of transnational crime.  Hezbollah has become a sophisticated and complex terrorist organization, and we need a response adequate to meet this challenge. 

“This legislation would move the ball forward by sanctioning foreign banks for knowingly doing business with Hezbollah.  We need to send a clear message to companies getting tangled up with this terrorist group, and that message is: walk away or face the consequences of the United States of America.

“The bill would also shine a bright light on Al-Manar, Hezbollah’s television station, itself a Specially Designated Terrorist Group.  Chairman Royce and I, working together through the years, have been, we especially listen to what is being broadcasted.  And during the Cold War when we had Radio Free America and television broadcasts, we felt that the message that the United States was getting to these countries was very important.  And we believe, both of us, that it did in fact play a major role in the collapse of the Soviet Union because they were fed the truth by us.  And we are strong supporters of continuing that kind of thing.

“Now Hezbollah uses Al-Manar for logistical, propaganda, and fundraising purposes. It defies reason that this station is still carried by the satellite providers all over the world.  Can you imagine that? 

“So let me say that again.  This legislation shines a bright light on Al-Manar, which is Hezbollah’s television station, itself a specially designated terrorist group.  And Hezbollah uses this station for logistical, propaganda, and fundraising purposes.  And it’s outrageous that this station is still carried by satellite providers all over the world.  So we need to expose this puppet organization for what it is.

“Our government needs new powers provided in this legislation.  And I’m pleased that the House and Senate worked together to get the bill across the finish line.  So I urge my colleagues to support this important legislation.  I thank Chairman Royce again for pushing this and being the driving force for this legislation.  And I reserve the balance of my time.”