House approves sanctions on Hezbollah

House of Representatives backs sanctions on Hezbollah as part of effort to take tough line against its chief backer, Iran.

Elad Benari ,

Hezbollah supporters
Hezbollah supporters

The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday backed new sanctions on the Hezbollah terrorist group, Reuters reported.

The sanctions are part of an effort to take a tough line against Iran, which is Hezbollah's chief backer, without immediately moving to undermine the nuclear agreement signed between the West and the Islamic Republic in 2015.

Three Hezbollah-related measures passed by voice vote, without opposition, according to Reuters. The House will vote on Thursday on another bill, to impose additional sanctions on Iran related to its ballistic missiles program.

The move comes nearly two weeks after President Donald Trump said he would not certify Iran is complying with an international agreement on its nuclear program.

Trump’s action opened a 60-day window for Congress to act to reimpose sanctions on Iran’s nuclear program that were lifted under the agreement, but there has been no move to do so in the House or Senate.

Aides told Reuters that, for now, House lawmakers are focusing on clamping down on Iran in other ways such as the Hezbollah and missile-related sanctions.

The first of the Hezbollah-related measures passed on Wednesday would impose new sanctions on any entities found to support the group, such as by providing weapons to Hezbollah. The second imposes sanctions on Iran and Hezbollah for using civilians as human shields.

The third was a resolution urging the European Union to designate Hezbollah as a terrorist organization. In 2013, the European Union blacklisted Hezbollah's “military wing” as a terrorist organization, while failing to blacklist the group’s political arm as well.

The U.S. named Hezbollah as a foreign terrorist organization in 1997. Earlier this month, Washington offered multimillion-dollar rewards for two of its officials as the Trump administration developed its strategy for countering Iran’s growing regional influence.

“These critical measures will impose new sanctions to crack down on Hezbollah’s financing, and hold it accountable for its acts of death and destruction,” said Representative Ed Royce, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, according to Reuters.

Washington has in the past imposed sanctions on Hezbollah 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.