An important piece of information that got lost in the blitz of news yesterday concerns Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah, who has just been designated by the good folks at the United States Treasury. The move implicates Nasrallah for providing assistance to the Assad regime as it tries (by some increasingly disgusting tactics) to crush the uprising in Syria.
Why is this important? Despite the fact that Nasrallah has been subject to sanctions since 1995 and that this new move makes little difference domestically, the act sends a signal to Europe. In the past, the United States has had difficulty wrangling Europe into making Hezbollah a target of sanctions because the EU considers the group to be a political organization. But recently, a chorus has grown louder to commit to pushing harsher measures against Syria and its supporters.
Britain and the Netherlands urged other EU governments on Friday to join the United States in imposing sanctions on the Lebanese political and militant group Hezbollah for providing support to Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad.
Dutch Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal said the European Union should brand Hezbollah a terrorist organization, a move that would enable the bloc to freeze the group’s assets in Europe.
“We have for quite some time now argued that effective European measures should be taken against Hezbollah,” Rosenthal said on the sidelines of a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Cyprus to discuss the EU’s response to the Syrian crisis.
By linking Nasrallah and Hezbollah (which the Treasury targeted last month) to the Syrian regime, the door swings open for an international coalition to finally put the squeeze on Hezbollah.
I spoke with a former treasury official who described the move as “significant,” adding “it may help advance efforts in Europe to extend sanctions against a group the US has targeted under terrorism authorities for years.”