US Treasury Sanctions 2 Lebanese Lawmakers, Hezbollah Official

By The Associated Press
The Associated Press
The Associated Press
July 10, 2019 Updated: July 10, 2019

The Treasury Department on July 9 levied sanctions on a Hezbollah security official and two members of Lebanon’s Parliament suspected of using their positions to further the aims of the Tehran-backed militia and “bolster Iran’s malign activities.”

Lawmakers Amin Sherri and Muhammad Hasan Ra’d as well as Hezbollah security official Wafiq Safa were designated under an executive order, which targets terrorists and those providing support to terrorists or acts of terrorism.

“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, undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence.

Trump administration officials said Treasury’s action also makes clear that there is no division between Hezbollah’s political and militant wings.

Hezbollah, whose Arabic name translates into “Party of God,” was established by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard during Lebanon’s civil war in the 1980s. It is among the most effective armed groups in the region, extending Iran’s influence to Israel’s doorstep. At home, the group’s power exceeds that of the Lebanese armed forces, and along with its allies, Hezbollah has more power than ever in the Parliament and government.

The Treasury Department alleges that Sherri has used his influence to pressure financial institutions to help Hezbollah limit the impact of U.S. sanctions. Sherri threatened Lebanese bank officials and their family members after the bank froze the accounts of a Hezbollah member already sanctioned by the United States, according to a statement issued by the department. Sherri also has ties to Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the leader of Iran’s elite Quds Force and the architect of Tehran’s regional strategy.

Ra’d, the second lawmaker sanctioned, was elected to Hezbollah’s Shura Council in 2009 and is part of Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah’s inner circle. He also is the leader of the Hezbollah lawmakers’ bloc, which works in Parliament to carry out the group’s agenda.

Treasury said that in 2017, Ra’d met with Hezbollah businessmen Adham Tabaja and Husayn Ali Fa’ur, who was sanctioned by the United States in 2015, to make sure the group’s avenues of funding would remain open despite sanctions. Ra’d and Safa maintained a list of 100 Hezbollah members who were to acquire foreign passports so they could be sent on long-term missions to Arab and Western countries, the department said.

Since 1987, Safa has been responsible for Hezbollah’s coordination with the international community and with Lebanese security agencies. Treasury officials alleged that he exploited Lebanon’s ports and border crossings to smuggle contraband, including illegal drugs and weapons, and facilitate travel for members of the group.

The action blocks any property or interests in property that the three have within U.S. jurisdiction. It also bans Americans from engaging in transactions with them and prohibits transactions involving the three from moving through the United States.

“Hizballah threatens the economic stability and security of Lebanon and the wider region, all at a cost to the Lebanese people. 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,” Mandelker said in a statement.

The Associated Press
The Associated Press