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US House passes sanctions on Iran-backed Hezbollah

Supporters of the Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah gather during a speech by Hassan Nasrallah, the Secretary-General of Hezbollah on 13 August 2017 [Ali Dia/Anadolu Agency]

The US House of Representatives on Wednesday backed new sanctions on Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah militia, part of an effort to take a tough line against Tehran without immediately moving to undermine an international nuclear agreement.

Three Hezbollah-related measures passed by voice vote, without opposition. The House will vote on Thursday on another bill, to impose additional sanctions on Iran related to its ballistic missiles program.

President Donald Trump said on 13 October he would not certify Iran is complying with an international agreement on its nuclear program, and threatened that he might ultimately terminate the accord.

Trump’s action opened a 60-day window for Congress to act to reimpose sanctions on Iran’s nuclear program that were lifted under the agreement, but there has been no move to do so in the House or Senate.

Aides said that, for now, House lawmakers are focusing on clamping down on Iran in other ways such as the Hezbollah and missile-related sanctions.

Read More: Hezbollah behind rockets launched from Syria

The first of the Hezbollah-related measures passed on Wednesday would impose new sanctions on any entities found to support the group, such as by providing weapons to Hezbollah. The second imposes sanctions on Iran and Hezbollah for using civilians as human shields. The third was a resolution urging the European Union to designate Hezbollah as a terrorist organization.

The United State named Hezbollah as a foreign terrorist organization in 1997. Earlier this month, Washington offered multimillion-dollar rewards for two of its officials as the Trump administration developed its strategy for countering Iran’s growing regional influence.

“These critical measures will impose new sanctions to crack down on Hezbollah’s financing, and hold it accountable for its acts of death and destruction,” said Representative Ed Royce, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

However, winning international support for an intensified campaign against Hezbollah could prove difficult. The powerful organization is part of Lebanon’s fragile coalition government and commands enormous support for the social services it provides.

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