Al-Monitor on Thursday reported that top House lawmakers are in the early stages of drafting terror-related sanctions – the outlet described any legislation as “a work in progress” – that would target Hezbollah and its Iranian sponsors due to the group’s global terror activities and its fighting on behalf of the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria.
“I think it’s important to make the point that it’s not all hugs and kisses. Hezbollah could not exist without the support of Iran,” Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), ranking Democrat on the Foreign Affairs Committee, told Al-Monitor. He said Congress cannot allow Iran to “blackmail” the United States through terrorist proxies.
“Hezbollah continues to be a terrorist organization; it has turned the tide of the civil war in Syria in favor of Assad,” he said. “And to me, it’s one of the ironies, I guess, of the fact that at a time when we’re sitting and negotiating with Iran over their nuclear program, they continue to do mischief with terrorist groups like Hezbollah. It irks me.”
The outlet contextualized the effort as at least partially a response to the Obama administration, after the White House conducted a publicly controversial but nonetheless successful campaign to prevent lawmakers from moving forward on legislation that would have potentially imposed nuclear-related sanctions on Iran in the future should current negotiations fail.
Mark Dubowitz, the executive director at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, had assessed in late February that lawmakers would continue to investigate how to impose pressure on Iran, and that there would also be “strong momentum behind another push” should the six-month interim Joint Plan of Action (JPA) expire without a comprehensive agreement for putting Iran’s atomic program beyond use for weaponization.
A report published earlier this month in Congressional Quarterly assessed that “groups on opposite sides of the Iran debate” were converging on the need for a strong congressional role in shaping Washington’s diplomacy with Iran.