The U.S. Treasury broadened sanctions on Friday targeting Hezbollah’s financial network in the Middle East and Africa in a bid to crack down on revenue streams the U.S. says the group uses to fund terrorist activities.
Hezbollah, which the U.S. says has financed terrorism in Syria and Yemen, depends on its ally Iran for more than $700 million a year, said an administration official who spoke on condition of anonymity. Treasury levied sanctions against six individuals and seven entities the U.S. says are tied to the group, according to a statement released Friday.
Treasury has targeted Hezbollah and its financial backers for years. The move is tied to President Donald Trump’s position on Iran — the administration has moved to ratchet up pressure on the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program without abrogating the accord with the U.S. and five other world powers.
“Hezbollah is a terrorist organization responsible for the death of hundreds of Americans. It is also Iran’s primary proxy used to undermine legitimate Arab governments across the Middle East,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement. “The administration is determined to expose and disrupt Hezbollah’s networks, including those across the Middle East and West Africa, used to fund their illicit operations.”
In Lebanon, where Hezbollah plays a key role in Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s government, the U.S. is trying to target the group’s finances without destabilizing the Middle East nation’s banking sector. It also wants to avoid alienating Lebanon’s Shia Muslim community, according to the U.S. official.
Trump has focused his criticism of Iran on the nation’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and the regime’s testing of ballistic missiles, as well as human rights abuses and the country’s role in supporting Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad. Trump has also warned that he’ll abandon the nuclear deal if more progress isn’t made to stop what he considers Iran’s malign activities.
The Justice Department said Jan. 11 that it would establish a “financing and narcoterrorism” team to target Hezbollah, which the U.S. considers a terrorist organization. The administration vocally supported street protests last month by Iranians against economic mismanagement and the political system, which led to at least 20 deaths and about 1,000 arrests.
Source » bloomerang