US announces another round of Hezbollah-related sanctions
The US government announced another round of sanctions on Lebanon-based entities, this time targeting two construction companies and one Hezbollah official, nine days after blacklisting two prominent Lebanese politicians close to the Iran-backed group.
The sanctions, announced on Thursday, target Arch Consulting and Meamar Construction, two firms that are owned and operated by Hezbollah, according to the US Treasury Department.
Washington also sanctioned Sultan Khalifah Asad, whom it said was an official on Hezbollah's executive council.
The US measures come at a time when Prime Minister-designate Mustapha Adib is struggling to form a government amid disagreements over the size of the cabinet and allocation of ministries.
"Through Hezbollah's exploitation of the Lebanese economy and manipulation of corrupt Lebanese officials, companies associated with the terrorist organisation are awarded government contracts," Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.
"The United States remains committed to targeting Hezbollah and its supporters as they corruptly abuse Lebanese resources to enrich their leaders while the Lebanese people suffer from inadequate services."
Focus on corruption
Citing corruption in the announcement of Hezbollah-related sanctions appears to be a new trend in Washington, as the Lebanese people rail against government inefficiency after a blast at the Beirut port killed more than 200 people and injured thousands last month.
Last week, the US Treasury also highlighted corruption while imposing sanctions against two former government ministers close to Hezbollah - Ali Hassan Khalil and Yusuf Finyanus.
Critics say the Treasury's focus on corruption when it comes to Hezbollah is selective in that it ignores the wrongdoings of Washington's allies in Beirut.
"US allies in Lebanon are also pioneers in corruption, and excluding them from sanctions reinforces the bias of US policy in Lebanon," Joe Macaron, a fellow at the Arab Center Washington DC, told MEE last week.
Washington has been piling sanctions on Lebanese firms and individuals, including members of parliament, as part of its so-called maximum pressure campaign against Iran.
Hezbollah has largely dismissed the sanctions against its members and allies as an American effort aimed at the "resistance" against Israel. The party called the sanctions against Khalil and Finyanus earlier this month a "medal of honour" for the two politicians.
Lebanon has been in turmoil for the past year, with anti-government protests raging and an economic crisis that saw the Lebanese currency lose more than 80 percent of its value, helping bring the country to the verge of collapse.
Thursday's sanctions, known as special designations, block the US assets of the two companies and Asad, and bar US citizens from doing business with them.