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US hits Hezbollah with new sanctions

Taking aim at Iran’s global footprint, the Trump administration on Friday hit six people and seven businesses linked to Hezbollah with terror sanctions, calling it “the first wave” in a pressure campaign that will escalate throughout the year.

The sanctions aim to squeeze Hezbollah financier Adham Tabaja, who is already designated by the US as a global terrorist, by freezing out a network of companies in Lebanon, Ghana, Liberia and elsewhere. The Trump administration said companies and their executives act on Tabaja’s behalf, forming “conduits” of funding for the Lebanon-based militant group.

“We will be relentless in identifying, exposing, and dismantling Hezbollah’s fin-ancial support networks globally,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said.

Senior Trump administration officials said the US estimates Iran sends Hezbollah about $700 million per year, arguing that Hezbollah has become the Iranian government’s primary tool to project its power in the Arabic-speaking world.

Formed by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards in 1982 to fight Israel’s invasion of Beirut, Hezbollah has morphed into a powerful political player in Lebanon, and is a member of the Mediterranean nation’s coalition government. The US considers Hezbollah a terrorist organisation and has hit the group with sanctions before.

Senior Trump administration officials said the US estimates Iran sends Hezbollah about $700 million per year, arguing that Hezbollah has become the Iranian government’s primary tool to project its power in the Arabic-speaking world.

More recently, the US has grown concerned about the group’s involvement in other conflicts, including in neighbouring Syria, where it’s sent thousands of fighters to shore up Syrian President Bashar Al Assad. US officials said Hezbollah is also helping train and advice Al Houthi militants in Yemen who are being pummelled by a Saudi-led Arab coalition supported by the United States.

Trump officials said more sanctions would be coming against Hezbollah, the results of an investigation into the group that President Donald Trump ordered last summer. They said there were “dozens” more financial networks linked to Hezbollah that could be targeted. The officials weren’t authorised to speak publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

The first wave of penalties target Al Inmaa Engineering Contracting, a company run by Tabaja and based in Hezbollah’s stronghold south of Beirut. The construction company is mostly active in predominantly Shiite areas in Lebanon such as Beirut’s southern suburbs and the southern market town of Nabatiyeh.

The other companies named on Friday are mostly based in Africa, where tens of thousands of Lebanese — have been living for decades. Most of the individuals targeted had not been publicly known to be Hezbollah financiers and are not prominent names in Lebanon.

The sanctions freeze any assets in the US and bar Americans from dealing with those being sanctioned.

Source: Gulf News

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