The US Treasury on Tuesday sanctioned two former Lebanese Cabinet ministers who are allied with Hezbollah in a rare move against politicians close to the group, The Associated Press reports.
The sanctioned officials are former finance minister Ali Hassan Khalil and former public works and transportation minister Youssef Fenianos. Khalil is currently a member of the Lebanese Parliament.
Khalil is a senior official with the Shiite Amal group that is headed by Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, while Fenianos is a member of the Christian Marada group that is allied with Hezbollah and the Syrian government.
The US Treasury said Khalil and Fenianos “provided material support to Hezbollah and engaged in corruption.”
US officials have been warning that a new wave of sanctions will target allies of Hezbollah, which is considered a terrorist organization by Washington.
“Political allies of Hezbollah should know that they will be held accountable for enabling its terrorist and illicit activity,” said David Schenker, the assistant secretary in the State Department's Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs. He added in a briefing with reporters that Washington will continue in the coming weeks and months to maintain pressure on Hezbollah.
Schenker warned that sanctions targeting Hezbollah and its supporters and “other corrupt actors will continue and we will use all available authorities to hold Lebanon’s leaders accountable for failing to live up to their obligations to the Lebanese people.”
Hezbollah has been sanctioned several times by the US administration in recent years.
In July of 2019, the US Treasury 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.
A month later, the US Treasury Department imposed sanctions on financial institutions and suspected middlemen in Lebanon and Oman.
Hezbollah, which has a strong political presence in Lebanon, is a major part of the cabinet, after the group and its allies gained more than half the seats of the 128-member Lebanese parliament in an election held in May of 2018.
The Treasury said Tuesday’s designations underscore how some Lebanese politicians have conspired with Hezbollah at the expense of the Lebanese people and institutions. The US supports the Lebanese people in their calls for a transparent and accountable government free of corruption, it added.