The Trump administration has blacklisted 15 Lebanese individuals and companies for allegedly helping Iran-backed Hezbollah, in a new round of sanctions targeting designated terror groups.
"The US Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) today designated as Specially Designated Global Terrorists (SDGTs) three Lebanon-based officials and 12 Lebanon-based entities linked to the Martyrs Foundation," said a Treasury press release yesterday.
The Martyrs Foundation was designated as a terror organisation in 2007 with American officials believing it to be used by Iran's government as an instrument for its broader strategic aims. Beirut-based Atlas Holding and its affiliates were placed under the "Specially Designated Global Terrorists" banner for allegedly being owned or controlled by the Foundation. Senior Atlas official Kassem Mohamad Ali Bazzi and 10 Atlas-connected firms, were put on the blacklist.
"Hezbollah profits from the sale of goods vital to the Lebanese peoples' health and economy, such as pharmaceuticals and gasoline," said Treasury Secretary Steven T Mnuchin. He insisted that the sanctions are not intended to punish the Lebanese people. "The Trump administration stands with the Lebanese people, and we are committed to exposing and holding accountable Hezbollah's terror-funding business schemes."
This week's announcement is the latest of a number of steps taken by the Trump White House to put pressure on Iran and its allies which are battling the US across the Middle East. Washington hopes that by choking off funding and imposing new sanctions, Iran will be forced into new negotiations over its nuclear programme and ballistic missiles.
US President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from the 2015 deal finalised by his predecessor, Barack Obama. The move escalated tensions and led to America's assassination of the commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps' elite Quds Force, Qassem Soleimani, last month.