U.S. Sanctions Hezbollah chief for aiding Syrian regime


U.S. Treasury officials imposed sanctions on the leader of the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, and two other members of the organization for their alleged role in aiding the Syrian government in its crackdown on opposition forces.

The Treasury on Thursday formally charged that Hezbollah has been supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces by providing training and logistical support.

The Treasury also said Hezbollah has helped Damascus monitor and control the movements of opposition fighters from the Free Syrian Army.

“By aiding Assad’s violent campaign against the Syrian people and working to support a regime that will inevitably fall, Hezbollah’s ongoing activity undermines regional stability and poses a direct threat to Lebanon’s security,” said Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David Cohen.

“Hezbollah’s actions, overseen by Hassan Nasrallah and executed by Mustafa Badr Al-Din and Talal Hamiyah, clearly reveal its true nature as a terrorist and criminal organization,” Mr. Cohen said.

The sanctions bar Americans from doing business with these three Hezbollah members and freezes any assets they might have in the U.S.

Hezbollah has long been on the U.S. terrorism list, so Thursday’s actions weren’t expected to have much material impact on the organization.

Still, the Obama administration has been intensifying its scrutiny of the Lebanese financial sector in recent months, concerned that Hezbollah may be using Beirut’s banks to launder proceeds from narcotics smuggling. Hezbollah has denied any role in narcotics trafficking.

U.S. officials also have raised their concerns with Lebanese officials in recent months that their banking system may be being used by Iran and Syria to evade sanctions.

This week, Treasury Deputy Secretary Neal Wolin met with Lebanese President Michel Suleiman, Prime Minister Najib Mikati and Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh in Beirut, according to U.S. officials.

“They discussed how Lebanon and Lebanese private financial institutions can work to prevent abuse of the Lebanese financial sector by illicit actors, including narcotics traffickers with links to Hezbollah,” said a Treasury official.

Lebanese officials have said they are cooperating closely with the U.S. in combating money laundering.