As the sanctions continue to exert their pressure on the Iranian regime, the U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced five groups that the Trump administration considers the top transnational organized crime threats. The Iranian-backed Lebanon Hezbollah is on that list, which means that Iran’s allies and proxy militias are also being targeted by the Trump administration.
Hezbollah, which means “party of God”, is the only group that made the list originating outside of the Western hemisphere. The U.S. also considers Hezbollah a terrorist organization, despite the fact that it has created a political group working inside Lebanon’s government.
Hezbollah fights with Iran
For Hezbollah, their ties to Iran are deep, as the regime is key to supporting the group financially. Since that time, Hezbollah has been active with Iran in Syria, thus providing support for the Syrian government under Bashar Assad.
The campaign in Syria served to improve the operational capacity of Hezbollah, and also saw its weapons stockpile increase immensely. As a result, the group has been targeted by Israel as part of a larger effort to limit the influence of the regime. Experts worry that this could lead to a much larger war that could be more violent than the Lebanon War of 2006.
Part of these efforts include pressuring Lebanon to cut Hezbollah’s access to its financial sector. There is also evidence of its activities outside of the Middle East, making it likely that money laundering for the group is occurring.
The Iranian regime struggling under weight of pressure
With the latest turn against another proxy group of the Iranian regime, plus the issues within Iran itself, the ruling mullahs are struggling to maintain control. Social and civil unrest are growing, along with a large number of protests in all industries.
The regime’s response has been to use greater campaigns of repression and suppression against the Iranian people, but it is not serving as a deterrent to the Iranian people. Truck drivers have been striking for three weeks, for example. Teachers are also striking against the lack of availability of education for all Iranians.
With further sanctions going into effect in November, the Iranian regime is struggling to keep its economy afloat. Brian Hook, the U.S. State Department Policy Planning Chief, noted that the U.S. is making every effort to ensure that there are minimal disruptions to the global oil markets.
“We have been clear with countries and companies around the world that we are bringing severe economic pressure on Iran until the regime changes its destabilizing policies,” said Hook. “We are seeing a well-supplied and balanced oil market right now. We should focus on these fundamentals and not be distracted by the emotional and unbalanced claims coming from Tehran.”
Iranian oil exports have already taken a significant hit from U.S. sanctions, which have yet to be enforced. Many countries have already stopped their shipments and Iranian exports are down from this time last year.