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Washington sanctions Lebanese Hezbollah lawmakers for doing ‘Iran’s bidding’

Washington sanctions Lebanese Hezbollah lawmakers for doing ‘Iran’s bidding’
The US Treasury Department has added two Hezbollah lawmakers and a top security official to its sanctions blacklist, the first time the militant group’s elected politicians have been sanctioned.

Amin Sherri and Muhammad Hasan Ra’d are elected politicians and members of Hezbollah’s parliamentary wing in Lebanon; Wafiq Safa is a security official for the group. The Treasury Department has accused Sheri and Ra’d of using their positions to further the militant group’s “malign agenda” and “do Iran’s bidding.”

 In a statement released Tuesday, treasury official Sigal Mandelker said that Hezbollah “threatens the economic stability and security of Lebanon and the wider region, all at a cost to the Lebanese people...there is no distinction between Hizballah’s political and violent activities.”

Tuesday’s action brings to 50 the number of Hezbollah members sanctioned by the Trump administration since 2017, but marks the first time that the group’s politicians have been targeted. The US State Department has designated Hezbollah a terrorist organization since 1995, a decade after its military operatives bombed a series of US targets in Lebanon. 

The latest sanctions come likely as a threat to Iran as much as to Hezbollah. Tehran stepped up its uranium enrichment activity on Monday in response to the US’ withdrawal from the 2015 Iran Nuclear Deal last year and Washington’s subsequent re-application of crippling economic sanctions.

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In a bid to bolster its pressure campaign against Iran, the US has often squeezed Hezbollah, which derives much of its funding from the Islamic Republic. In April, the Treasury Department imposed sanctions on firms it said were helping the militants evade previous penalties, and froze the assets of suspected Hezbollah financiers. 

In addition, American officials have been relentlessly lobbied by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to sanction Hezbollah, most recently in December, when the Israeli military discovered so-called “terror tunnels” at its Lebanese border.

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