US, Gulf states sanction Hezbollah leader Nasrallah, deputy Qassem
Shiite terror group's leader, his second-in-command targeted by fresh sanctions by US, Saudi Arabia, UAE and other Gulf states; Nasrallah, Qassem also placed on Gulf countries' terror lists; 'By targeting Hezbollah's Shura Council, we rejected false distinction between 'political wing' and Hezbollah's global terrorist plotting,' says US Treasury Secretary Mnuchin.
The US Treasury Department said four other individuals were also sanctioned, as was the group ISIS in the Greater Sahara, which was designated as a foreign terrorist organization.
It was the third round of sanctions announced by Washington since the United States pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal last week.
Wednesday's sanctions targeted members of the primary decision-making body of Hezbollah, the Treasury Department said in a statement.
"By targeting Hezbollah's Shura Council, our nations collectively rejected the false distinction between a so-called 'Political Wing' and Hezbollah's global terrorist plotting," Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said.
The move expands US sanctions against Nasrallah, who was sanctioned by Washington in 1995 for threatening to disrupt the Middle East peace process and again in 2012 over Syria. It is, however, the first time that the US Treasury has acted against Qassem, who is being listed for his ties to Hezbollah.
The measures were imposed jointly by Washington and its partners in the Terrorist Financing and Targeting Center (TFTC), which includes Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and United Arab Emirates, it said.
The Gulf states targeted four of the movement's committees and ordered individuals' assets and bank accounts frozen.
This was not the Gulf states' only action against Hezbollah, however, as Saudi Arabia and other members of the Gulf Cooperation Council placed 10 Hezbollah leaders on their terrorism lists on Wednesday, including Nasrallah and his deputy Qassem, Saudi state news agency SPA said.
A number of those targeted by the TFTC's sanctions, meanwhile, had been previously blacklisted by the United States.
Earlier on Wednesday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his Qatari counterpart, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Ali Thani, discussed Qatar's efforts to counter terrorism financing, the State Department said.
Nasrallah last year dismissed the prospect of tougher US sanctions against his group.
"The American administration, with all available and possible means, will not be able to damage the strength of the resistance," Nasrallah said on Aug. 13 in a televised address to mark the anniversary of the end of Hezbollah's 2006 war with Israel.
Shiite Hezbollah and its political allies made significant gains in Lebanon's parliamentary election earlier this month, boosting an Iranian-backed movement fiercely opposed to Israel and underlining Tehran's growing regional clout.