Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Lebanon's Iran-backed Hizballah movement, says the United States has been attempting to open communications with his group despite imposing new sanctions against its leaders.
The administration of President Donald Trump “is seeking to open channels of communication to Hizballah in Lebanon through mediators.... These are the American pragmatists," Nasrallah told Hizballah’s Al-Manar TV on July 12, without elaborating.
In the same interview, Nasrallah said that should war break out between Washington and Tehran, U.S. ally Israel would not be considered a “neutral” country and that it could be attacked by Iran.
He said that "Iran is able to bombard Israel with ferocity and force."
"When the Americans understand that this war could wipe out Israel, they will reconsider," Nasrallah said.
There was no immediate comment from the U.S. State Department in response to Nasrallah’s remarks.
Tensions have soared between the United States and Iran in recent days, with some observers expressing fears about the outbreak of a possible armed conflict.
The U.S. Treasury Department on July 9 said it was imposing sanctions on a Hizballah security official and two Hizballah members of Lebanon's parliament who are accused of using their positions to further the aims of the Iran-backed militant group and "bolster Iran's malign activities."
The Treasury said lawmakers Amin Sherri and Muhammad Hasan Ra'd and official Wafiq Safa, who is in charge of Hizballah's Liaison and Coordination Unit responsible for coordinating with Lebanese security agencies, had been blacklisted.
The action marked the first time Washington has taken aim at the group's elected politicians, although it has designated Hizballah as a terrorist organization. It has also sanctioned 50 people and entities linked to Hizballah since 2017.
Nasrallah on July 12 called the new sanctions "an honor" that came as "part of the ongoing battle" against Hizballah and its allies.
"What's new is the affront to the Lebanese state," Nasrallah said.
"At the end of the day, Hizballah is an important part of the country. The Lebanese government will tell the Americans, as it has before, that these are a part we cannot ignore."
A State Department official said it was sending a message to the rest of the Lebanese government that it "needs to sever its dealings" with these officials.
Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri said the sanctions would not affect government work.