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US, Gulf Arab states place sanctions on Hizbullah leadership

Thursday, May 17, 2018

The United States and six Gulf Arab states have announced imposition of “terrorism-related” sanctions on the leadership of Lebanon’s Hizbullah resistance movement, as Washington seeks to step up economic pressure on Iran and its allies in the region.

The US and Saudi-led Terrorist Financing and Targeting Centre said the sanctions were aimed at Hizbullah's Shura Council, the primary decision-making body of the resistance movement.

The US Treasury Department said that the sanctions targeted Hizbullah Secretary General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah and his deputy, Sheikh Naim Qassem, as well as three other officials with the movement. The council comprises of 12 members who are tasked with making the group’s tactical decisions and oversee its activities countrywide.

At the same time, the six Gulf members of the TFTC — Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates — declared sanctions on another nine individuals and firms part of or linked to Hizbullah that were already blacklisted by the US Treasury.

 “The TFTC again demonstrated its great value to international security by disrupting Iran and Hizbullah's destabilizing influence in the region,” said US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin in a statement on Wednesday.

“By targeting Hizbullah's Shura Council, our nations collectively rejected the false distinction between a so-called Political Wing and Hizbullah's global terrorist plotting.”

Washington’s claims against Hizbullah come while the movement has been playing a significant role in the Syrian army’s fight against foreign-backed militant groups.

Hizbullah was formed following the Israel’s invasion of Lebanon and the ensuing occupation of its southern parts in 1980s, and currently constitutes Lebanon’s de facto military power.  

Since then, the movement has helped the national army retake the occupied regions from Tel Aviv and thwart two Israeli acts of aggression in 2000 and 2006.

Hizbullah has seen its popularity sharply rise in recent years due to its successful counter-terrorism role, something that helped its political bloc make significant gains in Lebanon’s parliamentary elections this month much to the dismay of the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia, which are angry at the group’s victories against the terrorists they support in Syria.

The statement published on the Treasury’s website claimed Hizbullah is prolonging the situation in Iraq, Syria and Yemen “under the dictates” of Iran’s Revolution Guard Corps (IRGC), “putting the Lebanese state and the Lebanese people at risk, and destabilizing the entire region.”  

The latest US sanctions came one day after the Treasury Department slapped sanctions on governor of Iran’s Central Bank Valiollah Seif, alleging it had funneled funds to Hizbullah.

It was the third round of sanctions announced by Washington since the US pulled out of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal in defiance of international warnings for the White House not to harm the landmark agreement.

US President Donald Trump announced on May 8 that Washington was walking away from the nuclear deal and said he would reinstate nuclear sanctions on Iran and impose “the highest level” of economic bans on the Islamic Republic.

During that speech, Trump accused the Islamic Republic of Iran of supporting terrorism and called its role in region “sinister.”

After the announcement of Trump’s position on the Iran deal, the US Treasury said in a statement on its website Thursday that it imposed fresh sanctions on six people allegedly tied to the IRGC’s Quds Forces and three Iranian entities.