U.S. slaps Hezbollah agents with sanctions

WASHINGTON (JTA) – The U.S. Treasury has sanctioned several foreign entities for procuring military equipment for Hezbollah, part of an intensified bid to isolate Iran and its proxies.

The Treasury on Nov. 5 named Vatech SARL, a Lebanon-based company, and the China-based firms Le-Hua Electronic Field Co., Aero Skyone Co. Limited and Labico SAL Offshore. Also named were the owners of the entities.

According to the Treasury statement, the entities have supplied unmanned aerial vehicles and material for improvised explosive devices to Hezbollah.

Adam Szubin, the acting undersecretary of terrorism and financial intelligence, in recent months has told Israeli officials and the U.S. Congress that his office is intensifying its scrutiny of Hezbollah, partly to demonstrate a commitment to monitoring disruptive activities by Iran in the wake of the nuclear deal reached between the Islamic Republic and six world powers in July.

U.S. President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will discuss strategies for keeping Iran isolated when they meet in Washington next week.

One of Israel’s principle objections to the sanctions relief for nuclear restrictions deal, negotiated by the Obama administration, was that sanctions relief would free Iran to expand its influence in the region. Hezbollah, based in Lebanon, launched a war against Israel in 2006 and is helping Bashar Assad, another Iranian client, maintain power in Syria.

“Today’s action highlights Hezbollah’s exploitation of the commercial sector to support its military capabilities and facilitate acts of terrorism,” Szubin said in the statement. “Treasury will pursue any individual or company providing support for this violent group.”

Treasury accused Hezbollah of sending to Yemen the explosive devices manufactured with parts purchased by Le-Hua for use by the Iran-backed Houthi insurgency in that country.

Separately, the Anti-Defamation League last week called on the U.S. Senate to confirm Szubin as undersecretary.

“Especially as all eyes are on how Iran complies with the recently reached nuclear agreement, blocking the confirmation of this watchdog would be counterproductive and send just the wrong signal,” Jonathan Greenblatt, ADL’s CEO, said last week in a statement. “The Senate should send a clear message to the world that there is unflinching bipartisan support for enforcing U.S. sanctions against Iran.”

The confirmation of Szubin reportedly has been hindered by Republican unhappiness with the Obama administration’s Iran and Russia policies.

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