U.S. lawmakers seek increased sanctions on Hezbollah

Republican and Democratic lawmakers introduce legislation that would increase sanctions on Lebanon-based terror group.

Elad Benari,

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah

Republican and Democratic U.S. lawmakers on Thursday introduced legislation seeking to increase sanctions on Hezbollah, Reuters reported.

The lawmakers accused the terrorist group of violence in Syria and amassing rockets along Israel's border.

The bill, an amendment to existing sanctions on the group, seeks to further restrict its ability to fundraise and recruit, increase pressure on banks that do business with it and crack down on countries, including Iran, that support Hezbollah.

Among other things, it would bar anyone found to be supporting the group from entering the United States, require the president to report to Congress on whether Iranian financial institutions are facilitating its transactions and impose blocking sanctions on the group for criminal activities, according to Reuters.

Officials in Lebanon have been worrying that U.S. efforts to widen sanctions on Hezbollah could damage the country's important banking industry, because of the group's widespread influence in their country.

Members of the U.S. Congress and President Donald Trump's administration, however, are eager to curb the influence of Iran and its allies in the Middle East. This week, the Trump administration slapped new sanctions on Iran.

"These sanctions will severely limit Hezbollah's financial network and transnational criminal activities, as well as crack down its backers, most importantly Iran," Representative Ed Royce, the Republican chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a statement quoted by Reuters.

The United States, which blacklisted Hezbollah as a terrorist group, regularly sanctions members of the group.

Washington has in the past imposed sanctions on the group’s leader Hassan Nasrallah and two other members of the organization, for their alleged role in aiding the Syrian government in its crackdown on opposition forces.

In May, Saudi Arabia and the United States jointly blacklisted Hashem Safieddine, president of Hezbollah's executive council, which oversees the group's social and economic activities.