The US’ Trump administration is planning to impose sanctions on Hezbollah allies in Lebanon, including on prominent politicians and businessmen tied to the Iranian-backed Shia militia in an attempt to weaken the group’s hold on political decision-making, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported.
The move comes after a massive explosion rocked Beirut last week killing almost 200, injuring thousands more and causing widespread material damage to the country’s largest port and surrounding capital.
The events, according to the WSJ report, demonstrated “an opportunity [for US officials] to drive a wedge between Hezbollah and its allies”, sparking preparations to impose sanctions.
The sanctions, which would be an extension of US President Donald Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign in Iran, would prevent the target from travelling to the US and would see any assets they own under the country’s jurisdiction frozen.
The planned campaign is intended to force Lebanon into making reforms which would in turn encourage the international community to help the beleaguered state.
Lebanon is currently struggling with its worst economic crisis since the end of the civil war in 1990 but has battled to secure international aid to help float the economy in recent years because of political inaction.
An $11 billion international aid donation, pledged during the 2018 CEDRE conference, for example, has never been released because the money is reform-conditional, but successive governments have failed to make the changes.
With these new sanctions, the US is preparing to target high profile politicians which have worked with and alongside Hezbollah in government, allowing the group to maintain influence over political decision-making.
These include Gebran Bassil, head of the Christian Free Patriotic Movement and son-in-law to the President, Michel Aoun, as well as officials close to former Prime Minister Saad Hariri, the WSJ reported, without giving names.
Meanwhile, late last month Trump extended the national emergency order for Lebanon citing Hezbollah activities which “constitute an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States”.
The extension allows the US administration to sanction Lebanese targets to damage Hezbollah’s standing in the country.