US House increases pressure on Iran by passing sanctions on Hizballah

US House increases pressure on Iran by passing sanctions on Hizballah
Washington increases indirect pressure on Iran by edging closer to new sanctions on the Tehran-backed Lebanese political and militia group.
2 min read
26 October, 2017
Washington is urging the European Union to designate Hizballah as a terrorist organisation [AFP]

New sanctions on Lebanon's Hizballah group were approved on Wednesday by the US House of Representatives, as part of Washington's push to exert indirect pressure on Iran without immediately undermining the nuclear accord.

The House passed three measures against the Iran-backed political and milita group by voice vote, without opposition. 

"Hizballah has taken hundreds of thousands of lives, including Americans. With the House's action today, we send a strong message that the United States will not allow this threat to go unchecked," said Republican Representative Ed Royce, who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

"These critical measures will impose new sanctions to crack down on Hizballah's financing, and hold it accountable for its acts of death and destruction," he added.

The first of the new measures would impose sanctions on backers of Hizballah, while the second targets Iran and Hizballah for their alleged use of civilians as human shields.

Both entities have been accused of using human shields in fields of combat, including in the Syrian conflict in which Iran and Hizballah are backing the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

The third resolution urges the European Union to follow the US in designating Hizballah as a terrorist organisation.

Washington has long opposed the Shia political group, having designated it as a foreign terrorist organisation in 1997.

By urging the EU to take such a measure, Washington is attempting to close a divide between it and the 28-member bloc over Iran.

While the Trump administration has accused Iran of breaking the current nuclear accord agreed in 2015, the EU, another signatory of the deal, has maintained that the current deal should be preserved.

Much to the alarm of key EU member states, including Germany, Britain and France, US President Donald Trump has threatened to scrap the accord entirely.

His refusal to recertify the deal earlier this month also opened a 60-day window for Congress to reimpose sanctions on Iran that were lifted as part of the international accord.

So far, neither of Congress' two chambers has made moves in this direction.

The newly-approved sanctions follow Washington's offer of multi-million dollar rewards for the capture of two Hizballah officials earlier this month.

According to aides cited by Reuters, the House's actions on Wednesday are part of a drive to clamp down on Iran's regional influence without directly impacting on the nuclear accord.

A bill relating to further sanctions on Iran over its ballistic missiles programme will be voted on in the House on Thursday.