Weekly Snapshot
11-17 November 2018

1. The United States is tightening sanctions on Hezbollah

The State Department has issued new sanctions on members of Hezbollah. This week the United States has imposed additions sanctions on Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah and Naim Qassem, both high ranking officials within Hezbollah. The United States has also placed sanctions on several high ranking Iraqi members of the group as well.

Hezbollah has long been recognized as a terrorist group by the United States as they have sought to disrupt peace in the middle east. Their tactics in the fight against Israel are acts of evil, going as far as to bomb civilians and non-military targets. They have been blamed for the 1983 marine barracks bombing in Beirut killing 241 US servicemen.

Tensions have been high between Hezbollah and the United States as the biggest supporter (and creator) of Hezbollah is Iran. With the new sanctions placed on Iran, it is likely that Hezbollah will be getting less funding as Iran seeks to fund its own activities with reduced assets. This move by the United States shows an all fronts offensive on Iran and its affiliates, striking a blow to a group that has caused so much unrest in the middle east.

2. Senators give warning over Chinese investments

Senators Marco Rubio and Chris Coons wrote letters to the State Department and Department of Defence over the renewed interest by China in Djibouti. Djibouti is home to China’s first overseas military base and has been a point of contention over the Chinese One Belt One Road initiative.

When asked for comment over the letters, the Department of Defence spokesman said they were happy with infrastructure and investments that could benefit the country, but said countries should be cautious of piling on monumental debt. This is referring to China financing large projects in countries by giving loans they know the host country cannot repay. When the host country defaults on their loan, the piece of infrastructure (such as power plants, railroads, and seaports) would technically go under the ownership of China. China is using several state-backed institutions to loan this money, but at the end of the day, it is the Chinese government that is behind it.

As the US base in Djibouti is of great importance to the United States missions in Africa and the middle east, having Chinese interference could cause problems. The United States has placed measures to counteract such investments from China by passing the BUILD act or Better Utilization of Investments Leading to Development Act of 2018, as mentioned in a previous snapshot that can be found here.

3. A step towards the end of the war in Yemen

As reported two weeks ago, the West is trying to pressure the coalition that is fighting in Yemen to end the war. This week it is reported that the Saudi-led coalition has halted its offensive in the port city of Hodeidah. This is a strong step to a cease-fire after almost four years of fighting.

The Saudi-led coalition, backed by other western states, such as the United States, has been fighting the Houthi’s in Yemen after they rebelled against the government in 2015. The Houthi’s are a religious movement also known as Ansar Allah, or “supporters of God.” They are believers in the branch of Islam called Zaidi and makeup about 25% of Yemen. They are the minority, as most of Yemen is of Sunni belief. This religious tensions led to the rebellion and now conflict. Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, along with other small terrorist groups (primarily created and funded by Iran) have penetrated the ranks of the Houthi’s and started to spread violence outside the borders of Yemen. The violence was primarily directed at Saudi Arabia, which is why they decided to lead the coalition against the Houthi’s.

As the world is starting to pressure both sides to end the violence, it is refreshing to see that Saudi Arabia is actually taking heed of the United States warnings against continuing the violence. For the Saudi Arabians to actually go through with halting their offensive means the war is in a place where it has a minimal risk of spreading to their borders. After over 10,000 casualties and countless more displaced, it is good to see that peace may finally be in the future for Yemen.