U.S. Sanctions on Top Hezbollah Figures Are an Assault on Lebanon, Parliament Speaker Says

In first, U.S. Treasury designates members of Lebanon's parliament under sanctions list, hoping it would have a 'chilling effect' on anyone doing business with Hezbollah

Nabih Berri, speaker of the Lebanese parliament, meets with Deputy Speaker of the Iraqi Parliament Hassan Karim, in Baghdad, Iraq, March 31, 2019.
Hadi Mizban/AP

New U.S. sanctions against Hezbollah officials, including two Lebanese lawmakers, amount to an assault on parliament and the country, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri said on Wednesday.

The U.S. Treasury imposed sanctions on three top officials from the Iran-backed Hezbollah movement on Tuesday: two members of Lebanon's parliament and a security official who coordinates between Hezbollah and Lebanon's security agencies.

"It is an assault on the parliament and as a result an assault on all of Lebanon," Berri, the head of Hezbollah's ally the Amal party, said in a statement.

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This was the first time the U.S. Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control had designated a member of Lebanon's Parliament under a sanctions list that targets those accused by Washington of providing support to terrorist organizations. Washington has designated Hezbollah as a terrorist group.

OFAC said it had added Amin Sherri and Muhammad Hasan Ra'ad, both members of Lebanon's Parliament, for acting on behalf of Hezbollah. In an unusual move, it also released photos of the individuals, including one in which Iranian Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani has his arm around Sherri's shoulder.

OFAC said it also designated Wafiq Safa, who is in charge of Hezbollah's Liaison and Coordination Unit responsible for coordinating with Lebanese security agencies.

The action by the U.S. Treasury bars U.S. citizens from dealing with the three individuals and blocks any assets they may hold in the United States. It also limits their ability to access the U.S. financial system.

A Trump administration official who briefed reporters on the sanctions said the United States wanted the designations to have a "chilling effect" on anyone who does business with Hezbollah.