The US Treasury on Tuesday placed two Hezbollah members of Lebanon's parliament on its sanctions blacklist, marking the first time Washington has taken aim at the Iran-allied group's elected politicians.
The Treasury named MPs Amin Sherri and Muhammad Hasan Raad to a terror-related blacklist, saying that Hezbollah uses its parliamentary power to advance its alleged violent activities, according to a report by the AFP news agency.
Also placed on the blacklist was Wafiq Safa, a top Hezbollah official close to Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah.
"Hezbollah 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, Under Secretary of Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence.
Hezbollah and its allies gained more than half the seats of the 128-member Lebanese parliament in the election which took place in May of 2018.
In the newly formed Lebanese cabinet, which was announced earlier this year, Hezbollah has named a health minister and two other posts. US officials have called on Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s new government to ensure the group does not receive support from public resources.
The United States has in the past imposed several rounds of sanctions on Hezbollah and officials affiliated with the terror group.
Last October, President Donald Trump signed new sanctions targeting Hezbollah.
A week earlier, five groups, including Hezbollah, were designated as transnational criminal organizations to target with tougher investigations and prosecutions.
Before that, the Treasury sanctioned one of the financiers of Hezbollah and its representative to Iran, as well as five entities based in Europe.
This, however, is the first time the US Treasury had placed Hezbollah lawmakers on its blacklist, which forbid US individuals and businesses with a US branch -- including leading international banks -- from doing business with those sanctioned.
"It is time we believe for other nations around the world to recognize that there is no distinction between Hezbollah's political and military wing," a senior administration official who insisted on anonymity told journalists, according to AFP.
"To any member of Hezbollah considering running for office, know that you will not be able to hide beneath the cover of political office," the official said.
Tuesday’s move came as the US steps up pressure on Iran and its proxies in the Middle East, including Hezbollah.
Two weeks ago, Trump signed additional sanctions against Iran in response to the downing of an American drone.