July 9, 2019
The United States sanctioned on Tuesday three top Hezbollah officials, including two lawmakers — the first time Washington has taken aim at the Iran-allied group’s elected politicians.
It was the first time the US Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control had designated a member of Lebanon’s parliament under a sanctions list that targets those accused by Washington of providing support to terrorist organizations. Washington has designated Hezbollah as a terrorist group.
The Treasury named MPs Amin Sherri and Mohammad Raad to a terror-related blacklist, saying that Hezbollah uses its parliamentary power to advance its violent activities. In an unusual move, it also released photos of the individuals, including one in which Iranian Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani has his arm around Sherri’s shoulder.
OFAC said it also designated Wafiq Safa, who is in charge of Hezbollah’s Liaison and Coordination Unit responsible for coordinating with Lebanese security agencies.
“Hezbollah uses its operatives in Lebanon’s parliament to manipulate institutions in support of the terrorist group’s financial and security interests, and to bolster Iran’s malign activities,” said Sigal Mandelker, Under Secretary of Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence.
“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,” a senior administration official who insisted on anonymity told journalists.
“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 official said.
Raad, 64, is the head of the parliamentary bloc of the party and an MP since 1992.
Sherri, 62, is a 17-year Hezbollah veteran of parliament representing Beirut.
Safa, the Treasury said, maintains the group’s ties to financiers and helps arrange the smuggling of weapons and drugs.
The action by the US Treasury bars US citizens from dealing with the three individuals and blocks any assets they may hold in the United States. It also limits their ability to access the US financial system.
A Trump administration official who briefed reporters on the sanctions said the United States wanted the designations to have a “chilling effect” on anyone who does business with Hezbollah.
“The message is actually that the rest of the Lebanese government needs to sever its dealings with these figures that we’re designating today,” a State Department official said.
The newest sanctions brought to 50 the number of Hezbollah individuals and entities blacklisted by the Treasury since 2017.