BEIRUT (Reuters) - Future U.S. sanctions could target allies of Hezbollah in Lebanon, extending beyond direct affiliates of the Iran-backed Shi’ite Muslim group, a U.S. envoy said on Thursday.
“In the future we will designate, because we have to, individuals in Lebanon who are aiding and assisting Hezbollah, regardless of their sect or religion,” the new U.S. assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs David Schenker said in an interview with Lebanon’s LBCI television.
When asked by the interviewer if this means sanctions will target allies of Hezbollah, Schenker said “absolutely”, adding that the United States is constantly reviewing its sanctions lists.
The proposed targeting of allies of Hezbollah has been a sensitive subject for Lebanon in the past.
In 2017 a draft copy of proposed, tighter U.S. sanctions on Hezbollah caused disquiet in Lebanon because the wording, seen by Reuters, implied the legislation could target the Shi’ite Amal movement of parliament speaker Nabih Berri for investigation.
Lebanon’s Maronite Christian President Michel Aoun is also a political ally of Hezbollah.
Targeting both Amal and Hezbollah and their associates - the two parties representing Lebanon’s Shi’ite population - risked marginalizing a large section of society, banking and political sources said at the time.
The legislation that was eventually enacted did not mention the phrase “Hezbollah, Amal, or other associated entities” as contained in the draft section on who would be the focus of the regulations.
Reporting by Lisa Barrington; Editing by Alistair Bell