On Friday, the United States officially designated the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) leader, and former minister Gebran Bassil, “for his role in corruption in Lebanon.”
Following the announcement, FPM-affiliated news outlet ‘Tayyar’ quoted international affairs expert Leila Nicolas saying in a tweet that “Bassil can file a complaint before the US courts, and win it easily.”
Nicolas, who deleted her tweet hours later, argued that the United States only spoke in “generalities” and did not give evidence or reference to “one incident of corruption” that Bassil, who is also the son-in-law of Lebanese President Michel Aoun, has engaged in.
During an interview on LBCI news, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs David Schenker said that Bassil can challenge the designation, but talked in length about how difficult it will be, “because the case is so solid.”
“Do you think these sanctions will drive [Bassil] right back into the arms of Hezbollah?” the news anchor asked, to which Schenker responded rhetorically, “I’m sorry, was he not in the arms of Hezbollah before?”
With the implementation of these sanctions, the Lebanese pound fell against the greenback as fears rose that the already-stalling government formation would be put on hold.
However, when asked if he thought the sanctions will affect Lebanon’s government formation, Schenker replied, “I can’t imagine why it would,” saying that the government formation and the sanctions two independent things.
Schenker hoped these sanctions would open the eyes of Lebanese politicians and encourage them to embrace “changing the normal paradigm of Lebanese politics.”
“We hope that in the aftermath of this designation that Lebanese politicians will take a hard look at what they are doing and change,” he said.
It is to note upon the announcement of these sanctions, the US Treasury prompted to ask the Lebanese banks to freeze Bassil’s assets.