US turns the heat on Hezbol­lah, slaps re­wards on lead­ers

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

WASH­ING­TON: The United States stepped up its rhetoric against Hezbol­lah yes­ter­day, slap­ping re­wards on two com­man­ders and urg­ing al­lies to black­list the Le­banese armed group. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump is due to un­veil a new strat­egy to counter Iran later this week, but in the mean­time se­nior of­fi­cials sin­gled out Tehran’s ally in Syria and Lebanon.

Wash­ing­ton and the Le­banese move­ment have been foes since 1983, when the group was blamed by for deadly sui­cide bomb­ings against its em­bassy and a US bar­racks in Beirut. Since then Hezbol­lah has be­come a pow­er­ful mil­i­tary force in the re­gion and been im­pli­cated in sev­eral in­ter­na­tional at­tacks-but also a fix­ture in Le­banese pol­i­tics. Some US al­lies im­pose sanc­tions on Hezbol­lah’s “mil­i­tary wing” while tol­er­at­ing the group’s role as a po­lit­i­cal party rep­re­sent­ing many Le­banese Shi­ites in gov­ern­ment.

But US coun­tert­er­ror­ism chief Nicholas Ras­mussen and am­bas­sador-at-large for coun­tert­er­ror­ism Nathan Sales said that Wash­ing­ton would never ac­cept this dis­tinc­tion. “Coun­ter­ing Hezbol­lah is a top pri­or­ity for the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion,” Sales told re­porters, an­nounc­ing the re­wards for two al­leged top-level Hezbol­lah op­er­a­tives. Sales said the State Depart­ment would pay $7 mil­lion for information that leads to Talal Hamiyah, al­leged head of Hezbol­lah’s “Ex­ter­nal Se­cu­rity Or­ga­ni­za­tion.”

A fur­ther $5 mil­lion is on of­fer for leads on Fuad Shukr, “a se­nior mil­i­tary com­man­der” of Hezbol­lah in Lebanon.US of­fi­cials be­lieve Shukr was born in 1962, ei­ther in Beirut or the Bekaa Val­ley.

Talal Hamiyah’s US Trea­sury ter­ror black­list des­ig­na­tion lists four pos­si­ble dates of birth be­tween Novem­ber 1952 and March 1960, and three po­ten­tial Le­banese birth­places.It de­scribes his unit as the ESO as “the Hezbol­lah ele­ment re­spon­si­ble for the plan­ning, co­or­di­na­tion, and ex­e­cu­tion of ter­ror­ist at­tacks out­side of Lebanon.”

“These are the first Hezbol­lah-re­lated re­wards un­der the Re­wards for Jus­tice Pro­gram in a decade,” Sales said. “The United States and our al­lies will ag­gres­sively tar­get its ter­ror­ism in­fra­struc­ture and fi­nan­cial sup­port net­works,” he vowed, hail­ing sup­port from US friends. But he warned that “more work needs to be done.” “Some coun­tries have cho­sen to des­ig­nate only Hezbol­lah’s mil­i­tary wing, leav­ing its so-called ‘po­lit­i­cal wing’ un­touched. But that is a false dis­tinc­tion,” he said.

“Make no mis­take: Hezbol­lah has no po­lit­i­cal wing. It is a sin­gle or­ga­ni­za­tion, a ter­ror­ist or­ga­ni­za­tion, and it is rot­ten to its core,” he ar­gued. The of­fi­cials’ com­ments will be seen as set­ting the tone ahead of Trump’s an­nounce­ment of his new Iran strat­egy, which will be aimed at rolling back Tehran’s in­flu­ence. Hezbol­la­han in­flu­en­tial force in Lebanon and key ally to Bashar Al-As­sad’s Syr­ian regime-will be a tar­get. US Arab friends such as Saudi Ara­bia are push­ing for a tougher line on Tehran, and close ally Is­rael is al­ways alert to Hezbol­lah’s pres­ence across its north­ern bor­der.


NABATIEH, Lebanon: Mem­bers of Lebanon’s Shi­ite Hezbol­lah scout move­ment hold por­traits of Hezbol­lah fight­ers killed while fight­ing in Syria dur­ing a pro­ces­sion.

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