Trump Sanctions Hezbollah Agents in Lebanese Government

Members of terror network doing 'Iran's bidding'

Lebanese sympathisers of the Shiite Hezbollah party wave Lebanese national and party (yellow) flags in a southern suburb of Beirut / Getty Images
July 9, 2019

The Trump administration on Tuesday issued a bevy of new sanctions on a terror network of Lebanese Hezbollah agents who have been performing "Iran's bidding" across the region, according to the Treasury Department.

The terror network reaches into the upper echelons of the Lebanese government, according to Trump administration officials seeking to disrupt the network's activities and further penalize the Iranian regime for its regional support of jihadi militants. The three individuals hit with new sanctions are accused of using their positions in the Lebanese government to advance Hezbollah's terror ideology and the interests of the hardline Iranian regime.

The new sanctions come as the Trump administration seeks to use federal resources to thwart Iran's development of nuclear weapons. Iran is poised to cross major thresholds on the amount of nuclear material it stockpiles inside the country, a breach of the landmark nuclear deal that Trump withdrew the U.S. from last year.

"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" Sigal Mandelker, the Treasury Department's under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said in a statement accompanying the new sanctions.

"Hezbollah threatens the economic stability and security of Lebanon and the wider region, all at a cost to the Lebanese people," Mandelker said. "The United States will continue to support efforts of the Lebanese government to protect its institutions from exploitation by Iran and its terrorist proxies, and to secure a more peaceful and prosperous future for Lebanon."

The new designations will hit Hezbollah members of parliament Amin Sherri and Muhammad Hasan Ra'd, as well as a Hezbollah security official, Wafiq Safa, "for acting for or on behalf of Hezbollah."

"This action highlights how Hezbollah uses its political power to corrupt and exploit Lebanon's financial and security elements, taking advantage of the country's democratic system and values," the Treasury Department said. "Today's designations also underscore that there is no distinction between Hezbollah's political and violent activities. Hezbollah itself makes no distinction between its military and political wings, as Hezbollah's own leaders have acknowledged publicly."

Both Amin Sherri and Muhammad Hasan Ra'd are accused by the Trump administration of using their place in Lebanon's parliament to aid Hezbollah and its Iranian patrons.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration says it will continue to isolate Iran, particularly in light of the Islamic Republic's recent efforts to enrich uranium to levels needed for a nuclear weapon.

Iranian leaders have maintained in recent days that they will continue to breach the limits of uranium enrichment until European nations still party to the nuclear deal help the country skirt the Trump administration's economic sanctions. This includes using alternate financial vehicles to continue engaging in trade with Iran in violation of American sanctions.

The Trump administration views Iran's behavior as nuclear extortion, according to a State Department official who spoke to the Washington Free Beacon.

"This is another transparent attempt to generate negotiating leverage and extort the international community," said the official, who would speak only on background. "The international community must remain united in holding Iran accountable for its attempts at nuclear extortion."

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo "made clear that the right amount of enrichment for Iran is zero," the official said. "There is no reason for Iran to expand its nuclear program in this way other than to engage in brinkmanship."

"Iran should follow the calls of the international community to refrain from advancing its nuclear program," the official added. "If it fails to do so, the economic pressure and diplomatic isolation will intensify."