U.S. Treasury sanctions target senior Hezbollah operative

The Trump administration is targeting a senior Hezbollah operative with sanctions in what the White House says is an unprecedented use of economic pressure. 

The Treasury Department announced Friday morning it’s designating Salman Raouf Salman for acting on behalf of the Iran-backed Hezbollah, which the administration says is responsible for the planning, coordination and execution of terrorist attacks and for undermining the security of Lebanon. The State Department is also offering $7 million for information that leads to his capture. 

“This administration will continue to target Hezbollah terrorists who plot horrific murderous operations and indiscriminately kill innocent civilians on behalf of this violent group and its Iranian patrons,” said Sigal Mandelker, Treasury’s Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, in a statement. “We are targeting Salman Raouf Salman, who coordinated a devastating attack in Buenos Aires, Argentina against the largest Jewish center in South America 25 years ago and has directed terrorist operations in the Western Hemisphere for Hezbollah ever since.”

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The White House insisted in a briefing with senior administration officials Friday that the action is not related to the Iranian drone the U.S. says it shot down in the Strait of Hormuz Thursday. The president announced on Thursday that a U.S. warship had destroyed an Iranian drone it believed was threatening a U.S. vessel. Iran, however, has denied losing one of its drones, suggesting the American vessel might even have blown one of the U.S. military’s own drones out of the sky

One senior administration official tamped down talk of war during a briefing with reporters, emphasizing the “president has been clear” he wants the administration to handle things through “diplomatic channels” and has no interest in wars in the Middle East. 

Asked if both sides are taking baby steps to get back to the table, a senior administration official said, “the president has been frank that he is willing to talk to them when they are ready.” An official said it was “up to Iranians” whether they’re any closer to talks. 

— This is a developing story and will be updated. CBS News White House correspondent Paula Reid and reporter Kathryn Watson contributed to this report. 

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