Beirut (GPA) – The United States and Gulf allies Wednesday placed sanctions on Lebanon’s Hezbollah leaders, Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah and his deputy, Naim Qassem. Other senior leaders targeted include Sheikh Muhammad Yazbak, one of the original founders of the group, Husayn Al- Khalil, a high-ranking Political Adviser to Nasrallah, and Ibrahim al-Amin al-Sayyid.
The action took place among seven member nations of the Terrorist Financing and Targeting Center (TFTC): a coalition created in May 2017 co-chaired by the U.S. and Saudi Arabia. The agency, formed during Trump’s trip to Saudi Arabia, also includes Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.
“The TFTC again demonstrated its great value to international security by disrupting Iran and Hezbollah destabilizing influence in the region. By targeting Hezbollah Shura Council, our nations collectively rejected the false distinction between a so-called ‘Political Wing’ and Hezbollah’s global terrorist plotting,” said U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Steven T. Mnuchin in Wednesday’s Treasury Department statement.
Mnuchin referred to the distinction between Hezbollah as a political entity which has recently made major electoral gains in Lebanon’s May 6 elections, and the Hezbollah Resistance as a military entity — a separation that the European Union makes in its own approach to the group.
Looking to maintain support for the Iran nuclear deal, the European Union also moved on a law to ban member states from participating in US sanctions against Iran.
The TFTC member states also joined the US in also designating Talal Hamiyah, Ali Youssef Charara, Spectrum Group, Hasan Ebrahimi, Maher Trading, Hashem Safieddine, Adham Tabaja, Al-Inmaa Group, and Al-Inmaa Engineering and Contracting, to the sanctions.
In the year of its formation, the agency has been focused on neutralizing Iran and its allies such as Syria and the resistance in Lebanon and Yemen. This marks its second action in its span — the first being a joint sanction against “leaders, financiers, and facilitators of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria in Yemen (ISIS-Y) and al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).”
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Yet the US has never prioritized fighting ISIS-Y or AQAP. In defense of Saudi hegemony in the region, US-led airstrikes have killed civilians or targeted Houthis allowing AQAP to spread. Yemen’s resistance, known as “the Houthis” is AQAP’s (and the U.S.’s) main enemy in Yemen. In early 2015, the U.S. abandoned considerations to work with Houthi figures against the spread of AQAP in compliance with Saudi allies whom, in fact, assisted in the spread of ISIS-Y and AQAP.
Wednesday’s decision was also in line with Trump’s recent decision to pull out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) with Iran. This act of aggression solidified Washington’s intent to escalate tensions with Iran in preparation for conflict with the Islamic Republic.
Israeli Intelligence Minister Israel Katz said that the US and Gulf sanctions on the Secretary-General of Hezbollah is “a founding moment to curb Iran and disarm Hezbollah.”
Katz added that Israel supports and supports these sanctions.
The US has proposed a number of anti-Hezbollah legislation. Most recently, in August 2017, when a bipartisan-supported amendment to the U.S. Hezbollah International Financing Prevention Act of 2015 passed to target Iran’s support of the resistance in the region. Even Saudi and U.S. ally Saad Hariri, a Lebanese Prime Minister, urged the US to spare the Lebanese banks in fears the sanctions would place more financial strain in the already economically fragile country.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani responded to the decision Wednesday saying the Islamic Republic will not fall victim to U.S. warmongering.
[“The US and allies] think they can make the Iranian nation surrender by putting pressures on Iran, by sanctions and even threats of war,’ he said. “The Iranian nation will resist against U.S. plots.”
Iran’s foreign minister Javad Zarif also condemned Saudi Arabia’s support for U.S. sanctions against Hezbollah, also denouncing the kingdom for its silence over Israeli killings of Gazans. “Saudi response, on eve of Ramadan? Collaboration with its U.S. patron to sanction the first force to liberate Arab territory and shatter the myth of Israeli invincibility,” he tweeted. “Shame upon shame.”