U.S. takes Hezbollah's threat with "utmost seriousness": officials
As a vital push for stability in Lebanon, security in the Middle East, the Obama administration has been taking threat posed by Hezbollah "with the utmost seriousness," senior administration officials said on Tuesday, Xinhua reported.
Assistant Secretary of State Jeffery Feltman and his State colleague Daniel Benjamin told a Senate hearing that the administration views Hezbollah as a major threat to the interests of Lebanon, the United States, Israel, as well as the broader Middle East.
"Hezbollah's persistence as a well-armed terrorist group within Lebanon, as well as its robust relationships with Iran and Syria, and the transfer of increasingly sophisticated missiles and rockets to Hezbollah, threaten the interests of the United States, Lebanon, and our partners in the region, especially Israel," said the two officials.
They told U.S. lawmakers that the administration has been trying to decrease the threat posed by Hezbollah through supporting the Lebanese government, cutting off terrorism financing, interdicting illicit arms shipments, and bilateral and multilateral diplomatic efforts aimed at ending those arms transfers.
Hezbollah, a Shia Islamic political and military organization based in Lebanon, is listed by the U.S. State Department as one of Foreign Terrorist Organizations. The group is widely believed to get military and financial support from Tehran and Damascus.
The Obama administration, since it took office in January, 2009, has been encouraging Syria to play a positive role in the Middle East affairs ranging from Lebanon's stability to a comprehensive peace in the Middle East.
Stressing Hezbollah's threat, the Obama administration has warned the Syrian government in recent weeks of providing Scud missiles to Hezbollah and has threatened "all options are going to be on the table" to address Damascus's actions.
"We has made clear that our diplomatic relations with Syria will never come at the expense of Lebanon, Israel, Iraq, or any of our other partners in the region, and our communications will continue to emphasize the need for Syria to end its support for Hezbollah," said the officials.
"We are mounting considerable diplomatic, as well as counterterrorism, and assistance efforts aimed at minimizing the threat and influence of Hezbollah in the region, and promoting peace, stability, and prosperity across the Middle East," they added.