The U.S. on Tuesday sanctioned two Hezbollah representatives in Lebanon’s parliament, as well as a top Hezbollah security official.
Hezbollah MPs Amin Sherri and Muhammad Hasan Ra’d were blacklisted as was Hezbollah security official Wafiq Safa, whom the Treasury Department said serves as an interlocutor between the Lebanese paramilitary and the country’s security forces and is part of Hezbollah’s Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah’s inner circle.
Hezbollah currently controls about one-tenth of the Lebanese Parliament’s 128 seats.
The highly unusual step of designating parliamentarians “highlights how Hizballah uses its political power to corrupt and exploit Lebanon’s financial and security elements, taking advantage of the country’s democratic system and values,” the department said using an alternative spelling for Hezbollah.
In addition to his seat in parliament, the Treasury said Ra’d serves on Hezbollah’s top consultative council and accused Sherri of threatening bank officials and their families for freezing the bank accounts of a Hezbollah member.
Safa, the security official, “exploited” Lebanon’s ports and other official entryways “to smuggle contraband and facilitate travel on behalf of” Hezbollah, and siphoned off import duties and other Lebanese revenue, the Treasury alleged.
The party “uses its operatives in Lebanon’s parliament to manipulate institutions in support of the terrorist group’s financial and security interests, and to bolster Iran’s malign activities” said Sigal Mandelker, Treasury’s top terrorism and financial intelligence said in a statement.
“Hizballah threatens the economic stability and security of Lebanon and the wider region, all at a cost to the Lebanese people,” added Mandelker.