The US is offering multimillion-dollar rewards for two high-level officials of the Lebanese group Hezbollah as the US administration prepares to unveil a strategy to counter Iran’s perceived regional influence.
The US will pay up to $7m for information leading to the arrest of Talal Hamiyah, head of Hezbollah’s foreign operations, and up to $5m for Fuad Shukr, a senior Hezbollah military officer, the US state department said on Tuesday.
The rewards are the first offered by the US for Hezbollah officials in a decade, Nathan Sales, the US counterterrorism coordinator, said.
“Today’s rewards are another step to increase the pressure on them and their organisation,” said Sales.
Other people for whom the US is offering rewards include Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the head of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group, and Abu Muhammad al-Julani, the commander of the Syrian armed group Tahrir al-Sham.
Hamiyah has been on the department’s foreign terrorist list since 2015 and Shukr was added in 2013.
The US named Iran-backed Hezbollah as a foreign terrorist organisation in 1997.
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Winning support for an intensified campaign against Hezbollah could prove difficult for the administration.
Hezbollah is part of Lebanon’s fragile coalition government and commands enormous support for the social services it provides.
Sales indicated that as part of President Donald Trump’s soon-to-be unveiled Iran strategy, the US would press countries that have yet to designate Hezbollah as an international terrorist group to do so.
“Additionally, some countries have chosen to designate only Hezbollah’s military wing, leaving its so-called political wing untouched,” he said, apparently referring to the 28-member European Union.
“But that is a false distinction. Make no mistake. Hezbollah has no political wing. It is a single organisation, a terrorist organization, and it is rotten to its core.”
Designating the group as a terrorist organisation is “not merely symbolic,” Sales said.
By not doing so, he said, countries “limit other governments’ ability to freeze Hezbollah’s assets, to shut down its front companies, to eliminate its fund-raising and recruiting capabilities and to prosecute Hezbolah associated networks. The United States will need allies in this fight”.
SOURCE: Reuters news agency