This article has been updated with additional research by Kharon.
The U.S. Treasury Department on Tuesday imposed sanctions on two Hizballah members of Lebanon’s parliament, as well as a Hizballah security official, stressing how the group uses its political power to achieve its objectives.
Hizballah, which has been subject to U.S. sanctions since 1995, is a force in Lebanese politics: The group and its allies won 71 of the 128 seats in the parliament last year.
The sanctions on lawmakers Amin Sherri and Muhammad Hasan Ra’d, and on security official Wafiq Safa, show how Hizballah uses Lebanon’s democratic system to corrupt and exploit the country, according to the Treasury. “Hizballah 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 Treasury Under Secretary Sigal Mandelker.
Senior administration officials told reporters on Tuesday it marked the first time that the U.S. has sanctioned sitting Hizballah lawmakers. "To any member of Hizballah considering running for office, know that you will not be able to hide beneath the cover of political office," a U.S. official was quoted by AFP as saying.
Hizballah said the sanctions on the lawmakers were a “humiliation” for Lebanon, according to AFP.
The U.S. government said that there is no separation between the group’s military operations and its political work, citing comments from Hizballah leadership: Both are overseen by the Hizballah Shura Council, the group’s highest governing body. The Treasury on Tuesday cited comments made in 2001 by Ra’d in which he said: “Hizballah is a military resistance party…. There is no separation between politics and resistance.”
Other countries around the world have sanctioned the military wing of Hizballah, but have left the political operation to continue. “It is time we believe for other nations around the world to recognize that there is no distinction between Hizballah’s political and military wing,” the U.S. official was quoted as saying by AFP.