New Hezbollah sanctions aimed at calming Syria, U.S. official says

David Cohen, the United States Department of Treasury’s under secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, discussed the extent of Hezbollah’s involvment in Syria. (Al Arabiya)

The United States on Friday sanctioned Hezbollah for supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, which has carried out continual violent repression against civilians. The Lebanese militia has already been sanctioned by the Washington since 1995 for being a terrorist group.

In an exclusive interview, David Cohen, the United States Department of Treasury’s under secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, told Al Arabiya that the latest action was “designed principally to expose the activity of Hezbollah in providing operational, logistical, and other sorts of support to the Syrian government in its repression of the Syrian people.”

According to Cohen, the action freezes Hezbollah assets in the U.S., with the rest of the world taking note of such decision, allowing other countries to take complimentary action.

Cohen alleged that Hezbollah secretary general Hassan Nasrallah is directly supervising the group’s activities in Syria, saying it indicated how seriously Hezbollah feels threatened by the events in the country.

“It demonstrates that what Hezbollah is doing in Syria today is not a sidelight of their activity. This is central to Hezbollah’s strategy right now, which is to do everything that they can to try and prop up the Assad regime, working with their patrons in Iran coming in to try and provide support to the Assad regime as it is trying to put down the legitimate opposition in Syria,” he said.

Cohen said Hezbollah is actively engaged in Syria to expel the opposition forces from various locations within the country.

“What we are talking about is Hezbollah working to train Syrian forces, to work with the Syrian forces. We have separately revealed activity by the Quds force, and by the law enforcement forces of Iran and by the MOIS, the Iranian intelligence service, also operating in Syria, in support of the Assad regime,” he added.

Cohen said the U.S. was expecting to work towards a “unified international coalition” to pressure Hezbollah and restrain the group’s activities in Syria and elsewhere, while individual regional governments like Turkey would implement their own treatment in dealing with Hezbollah’s actions.

“That means different things for different countries, and for different countries to take actions in different ways. There’s no one size fits all approach here,” he said.

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