U.S., Gulf Countries Impose Sanctions on 25 Targets Linked to Iran's Regime
US and six Gulf countries impose sanction on Iran
The United States and six Gulf countries agreed to jointly impose sanctions on 25 corporations, banks and individuals linked to the Iranian regime’s support for militant networks including Hezbollah, the U.S. Treasury Department said on Wednesday.
The blacklisted targets were announced by the Terrorist Financing Targeting Center (TFTC) nations - which also include Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates - as U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin was traveling in the Middle East.
The U.S. had previously imposed sanctions on all 25 targets, Reuters reported.
“The TFTC’s action coincides with my trip to the Middle East, where I am meeting with my counterparts across the region to bolster the fight against terrorist financing,” Secretary Mnuchin said in a Treasury statement.
Mnuchin on Monday told reporters the United States would increase economic pressure on Iran's regime over its nuclear program.
Sanctions reimposed on Iran's regime by the U.S. after President Donald Trump withdrew Washington from world powers’ 2015 nuclear pact with Tehran have dried up Iranian oil revenue and cut Iranian banks’ ties to the financial world.
Tensions between the U.S., its Gulf allies and Iran's regime spiked in recent months after attacks on oil tankers and a September strike on Saudi oil facilities, carried out by the Iranian regime.
Twenty-one of the targets announced on Wednesday comprised a vast network of businesses providing financial support to the Basij Resistance Force, a paramilitary group that is part of the Iranian regime's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). The U.S. State Department designated the IRGC as a Foreign Terrorist Organization in April 2019.
“This is the TFTC’s largest joint designation to date, and is focused on entities supporting Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and Iran’s regional proxy, Hizballah,” the Treasury statement said.
“Several of the businesses targeted in this action are providing financial support to the Basij Resistance Force (Basij), a paramilitary force subordinate to the IRGC that have long been used as shock troops by the regime to oppress domestic opposition with brutal displays of violence, while also recruiting, training and deploying fighters to fight in IRGC-fueled conflicts across the region.”
A senior Treasury official told Reuters on Wednesday the Basij attacks demonstrators and students, recruits child soldiers and engages in torture.
The Treasury said shell companies and other measures were used to mask Basij ownership and control over multibillion-dollar business interests in Iran’s automotive, mining, metals, and banking industries, many of which operate across the Middle East and Europe.
“Twenty-one of these targets comprised a vast network of businesses providing financial support to the Basij Resistance Force (Basij). The Iran-based network Bonyad Taavon Basij, translated as the ‘Basij Cooperative Foundation,’ employs shell companies and other measures to mask Basij ownership and control over a variety of multibillion-dollar business interests in Iran’s automotive, mining, metals, and banking industries, many of which have significant international dealings across the Middle East and Europe.”
Four individuals targeted were Hezbollah-affiliated and help coordinate the group’s operations in Iraq, it said.
“These designations again highlight the degree to which Hizballah operates as a clandestine, terrorist arm of the Iranian regime by smuggling oil for Iran, raising funds for Hizballah, and sending fighters to Syria for the IRGC-Qods Force on behalf of Qasem Soleimani.”
“The TFTC’s coordinated disruption of the financial networks used by the Iranian regime to fund terrorism is a powerful demonstration of Gulf unity. This action demonstrates the unified position of the Gulf nations and the United States that Iran will not be allowed to escalate its malign activity in the region,” added Mnuchin.
Earlier this month, Financial Action Task Force (FATF) - the international body that sets standards on combating terrorist financing - said it had given Iran's regime the final deadline of February 2020 to comply with international norms, after which it would urge members to apply counter-measures.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday welcomed the move by Paris-based FATF, saying in a statement that the IRGC “continues to engage in large-scale, illicit, financing schemes to fund its malign activities.”