Well as it turns out, Steve Mnuchin was just getting started when Treasury sanctioned Iranian central bank governor Valiollah Seif for his efforts to funnel money to the Quds and, ultimately, to Hezbollah earlier this week.
That move amounted to further proof that the Trump administration’s decision to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal has less to do with the actual threat of an Iranian nuclear bomb and more to do with Tehran’s expanding regional influence.
As we detailed extensively in the post linked above (and in the posts it cites and links to), the conflicts in Iraq and Syria have greatly strengthened Iran’s hand in regional affairs and the IRGC’s support for the Houthis in Yemen means that not only is the Shiite crescent cemented, but Iran is now menacing the Saudis on their southern border.
All of this is being orchestrated by the usual suspect, Quds commander Qassem Soleimani, who was and maybe still is in Baghdad to try and figure out what Iraq’s government is going to look like going forward – and I mean that literally. Here’s Reuters:
Iranian Major General Qassem Soleimani is holding talks with politicians in Baghdad to promote the formation of a new Iraqi cabinet which would have Iran’s approval, two people familiar with the political process underway in Iraq said on Wednesday.
Soleimani, commander of foreign operations for Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards, arrived in Iraq on Saturday, the day of the parliamentary election.
Initial nationwide results showed a surprise victory for the bloc that supports populist cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, a Shi’ite not aligned with Iran who campaigned on a nationalist platform, tapping into public resentment against widespread corruption and huge social disparities.
Soleimani is holding talks with rival politicians to pave the way for an agreement to form a Shi’ite ruling coalition, said a person acting as an intermediary between Sadr, other senior politicians and a Shi’ite candidate.
Well needless to say, exactly none of the above sits well with Israel and the Sunni powers. They are especially perturbed with the extent to which Hezbollah has seen its hand strengthened by the successful (and note that our use of the word “successful” isn’t meant to confer legitimacy or express approval, it’s just to state a fact) attempt to shore up Bashar al-Assed in Syria.
The group was further bolstered (or at least this is the narrative) by the outcome of the elections in Lebanon.
Again, this is a real pain in the ass for Israel and Saudi Arabia and the U.S. quitting the Iran deal effectively laid the groundwork for the Washington to work with Netanyahu and the regional Sunni powers to turn the screws on the Quds and Hezbollah. Well sure enough, in a major move, the Treasury has sanctioned Hassan Nasrallah.
Here’s the official statement:
WASHINGTON – Today, the seven member nations of the Terrorist Financing and Targeting Center (TFTC) took significant actions to disrupt an Iranian-backed terrorist group by designating the senior leadership of Lebanese Hizballah. The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) in partnership with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the co-chair of the Terrorist Financing Targeting Center (TFTC), and the other TFTC member states – the Kingdom of Bahrain, the State of Kuwait, the Sultanate of Oman, the State of Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) – designated members of Hizballah’s Shura Council, the primary decision-making body of Hizballah. Specifically, OFAC, together with Gulf partners, designated Hasan Nasrallah, the Secretary General of Hizballah. OFAC and the TFTC nations further designated Naim Qasim, Muhammad Yazbak, Husayn Al- Khalil, and Ibrahim al-Amin al-Sayyid pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13224, which targets terrorists and those providing support to terrorists or acts of terrorism. In addition, TFTC Member States also designated the following key Hizballah-affiliated individuals and entities: Talal Hamiyah, Ali Youssef Charara, Spectrum Group, Hasan Ebrahimi, Maher Trading, Hashem Safieddine, Adham Tabaja, Al-Inmaa Group, and Al-Inmaa Engineering and Contracting, all of whom were previously designated by the U.S.
“The TFTC again demonstrated its great value to international security by disrupting Iran and Hizballah’s destabilizing influence in the region. By targeting Hizballah’s Shura Council, our nations collectively rejected the false distinction between a so-called ‘Political Wing’ and Hizballah’s global terrorist plotting,” said Secretary of the Treasury Steven T. Mnuchin. “Under the dictates of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF), Secretary General and head of the Shura Council Hasan Nasrallah is prolonging the human suffering in Syria, fueling the violence in Iraq and Yemen, putting the Lebanese state and the Lebanese people at risk, and destabilizing the entire region.”
You’ll note there that the move was taken in conjunction with Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and UAE.
If Trump was looking to stir some shit up, that’s one way to do it. You can bet this won’t go over particularly well in Tehran and again, irrespective of what you think about Hezbollah, it’s important to remember that they are one of the most effective anti-ISIS/anti-Sunni extremist elements on the planet. The same goes for Iran’s allied militia in Iraq.
When you go out and you do things like hit Nasrallah, you effectively turn a “Frenemy” (if you will) in the fight against Sunni extremism back into an outright enemy.