Thu, Jul 11, 2019 - Page 6 News List

Two Hezbollah lawmakers put on US blacklist

FIRST TIME:The US said any distinction between the political and military wings is artificial, but did not sanction Iran’s foreign minister as promised

AFP, WASHINGTON

The US Department of the Treasury on Tuesday placed two Hezbollah members of Lebanon’s legislature on its sanctions blacklist — the first time Washington has taken aim at the Iran-allied group’s elected politicians.

Stepping up its effort to build global pressure on the Lebanese Shiite movement, the Treasury named lawmakers Amin Sherri and Mohammed Hasan Raad to a terror-related blacklist, saying that Hezbollah uses its legislative power to advance violent activities.

Also placed on the blacklist was Wafiq Safa, a top Hezbollah official close to Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the US targeted three officials “who leverage their positions to facilitate Hezbollah and the Iranian regime’s malign efforts to undermine Lebanese sovereignty.”

“Any distinction between Hezbollah’s political and military wings is artificial,” he said. “We call on our allies and partners to designate Hezbollah in its entirety as a terrorist organization.”

Pompeo tied the action to the US’ “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran and its “proxies” in the Middle East, including Hezbollah, which Washington has officially designated a “terrorist group.”

However, Washington stopped short of imposing similar sanctions on Iranian Minister of Foreign Affairs Mohammad Javad Zarif, which US Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin said were forthcoming last month.

A senior administration official who insisted on anonymity would not confirm any plan to blacklist Zarif, who was crucial in achieving the 2015 nuclear deal.

“We are obviously exploring ... various avenues for additional sanctions on Tehran. Obviously, Foreign Minister Zarif is a figure of key interest,” she said.

It is the first time the US Treasury has placed Hezbollah lawmakers on its blacklist, which forbids US individuals and businesses with a US branch — including leading international banks — from doing business with those sanctioned.

With the electoral backing of many Lebanese Shiites, Hezbollah last year won 13 seats out of 128. It joined a coalition government formed on Jan. 31, gaining control of three ministries.

However, Washington said that it would not regard the group’s political and military activities as separate from one another.

“It is time, we believe, for other nations around the world to recognize that there is no distinction between Hezbollah’s political and military wing,” the senior official said. “To any member of Hezbollah considering running for office, know that you will not be able to hide beneath the cover of political office.”

The newest sanctions brought to 50 the number of Hezbollah individuals and entities blacklisted by the Treasury since 2017.

Pompeo said the US pressure on Iran and Hezbollah was having an effect on the Lebanese group’s operations.

“As a result, this designated terrorist organization has been forced to take unprecedented austerity measures. For example, in March 2019, for the first time ever, Hezbollah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah made a public appeal for financial support,” he said.

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