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US sanctions Iranian ambassador to Iraq, two senior Hezbollah officials

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The United States Thursday sanctioned Iranian Ambassador to Iraq Iraj Masjedi and two senior Hezbollah officials, the Department of Treasury announced.

“A close adviser to former IRGC-QF Commander Qassem Soleimani, Masjedi played a formative role in the IRGC-QF’s Iraq policy,” a statement from the Treasury Department said.

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According to the statement, Masjedi has “overseen a program of training and support to Iraqi militia groups, and he has directed or supported groups that are responsible for attacks that have killed and wounded US and coalition forces in Iraq.”

As ambassador, the Iranian diplomat conducted financial transfers to benefit the IRGC-QF, the US said.

In a separate statement, the Treasury Department said two members of Iran-backed Hezbollah’s Central Council were also sanctioned.

“The Central Council is responsible for identifying and electing the group’s highest decision-making body, the Shura Council, which formulates policy and asserts control over all aspects of Hezbollah’s activities, including its military activities,” Treasury said.

Secretary of Treasury Steve Mnuchin said that the group needed to continue to be held accountable for its “horrific actions as we approach the 37th anniversary of Hezbollah’s bombing of the US Marine Barracks in Beirut, Lebanon.”

“Hezbollah’s senior leaders are responsible for creating and implementing the terrorist organization’s destabilizing and violent agenda against US interests and those of our partners around the world,” the US official said.

Protecting the Iraqi people and restricting Hezbollah’s activities

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo defended the move to sanction Masjedi.

“Today, the United States is taking another step to protect the Iraqi people from malign IRGC-QF influence by designating Iraj Masjedi, a senior IRGC-QF general in Iraq who also serves as Iran’s ambassador to Iraq,” he said in a statement.

Pompeo said the Iranian diplomat and IRGC general previously admitted to training militias in Iraq and Syria.

On the designations of the two Hezbollah officials, Pompeo said the group remains a terrorist threat to the US, its allies and its interests in the Middle East and globally.

Pompeo reaffirmed Washington’s commitment to “take action to disrupt Hezbollah’s operations and promote accountability for its terrorist acts.”

“All responsible nations must take appropriate steps to restrict Hezbollah’s activities and constrain its influence,” he said, hours after Saad Hariri was designated to form a new government in Lebanon where the group exerts significant power over the political scene.

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