Moves against Tehran’s proxy network are part of the administration’s aggressive push back against Iran’s activities in the region.
The State Department is working to persuade European powers to get tougher with Tehran for its regional behavior and ballistic-missile program. The US says Iran was emboldened by the 2015 nuclear deal.
Attorney-General Jeff Sessions announced last month, that a team had been created to combat Hezbollah’s drug-trafficking operations.
Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin announced new sanctions against six people and seven businesses associated with Hezbollah, in what Mnuchin characterized as the “first wave” of many sanctions to come. “We will be relentless in identifying, exposing and dismantling Hezbollah’s financial support networks globally,” Mnuchin said.
On Twitter, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee wrote, “We will no longer allow corrupt Hezbollah and other Iranian regime cronies to hide their crimes behind front companies. More to come.”
The State Department said last week, that Ismail Haniyeh, the leader and president of the Hamas’s political bureau, and Harakat al-Sabireen, an Iranian- backed group operating in Gaza and the West Bank, were “sponsored and directed by Iran.” Both were classified as “Specially Designated Global Terrorists,” one of the government’s harshest sanctions.
Additionally, there are new sanctions that directly target the Iranian government over human-rights abuses, missile work, and support for terrorism. The Trump administration has “more than tripled the number” of US sanctions on Iran and its proxies in the past year, US Vice President Mike Pence stated during his visit to Israel last month.
Congress passed three bills last October with bipartisan support. All three bills address Hezbollah activity. According to Michael Wilner, Washington bureau chief and White House correspondent, one bill encourages the European Union to “fully designate all of Hezbollah a terrorist organization, after the transcontinental body listed only its ‘military wing’ as such in 2013. Another would sanction individual members of Hezbollah for war crimes for their use of human shields. The third would beef up a 2015 sanctions law targeting Hezbollah’s financing, requiring the president to report annually to Congress on the net worth of the group’s leaders.”
This is just the beginning of an effort to stop Iran’s push toward dominance, say US officials.
Trump threatened to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal if Britain, France and Germany fail to join him in targeting Iran’s proxies. “They should designate Hezbollah – in its entirety – as a terrorist organization,” Trump said.
The clock started on January 12th, for an addendum to the Iran nuclear deal to be negotiated. Trump’s aides say that for now, he is willing to remain a party to the agreement, if Europe takes concrete actions against Iran’s “malign activities” and ballistic-missile work.
“They should join us in constraining Iran’s missile development and stopping its proliferation of missiles, especially to Yemen,” Trump stated. “They should join us in countering Iran’s cyberthreats. They should help us deter Iran’s aggression against international shipping. They should pressure the Iranian regime to stop violating its citizens’ rights. And they should not do business with groups that enrich Iran’s dictatorship or fund the Revolutionary Guard and its terrorist proxies.”