U.S. Hits Iran Regime With New Sanctions Related to Hezbollah Funding
By Staff Writer
The US has increased its financial pressure on the Iranian regime by imposing anti-terror sanctions on the head of its central bank that bar anyone in the world from doing business with him.
These sanctions on bank governor Valiollah Seif, announced on Tuesday, have dealt a massive blow to European leaders who are scrambling to salvage the nuclear deal following Donald Trump’s withdrawal last week.
Seif and Ali Tarzali, a senior official who works in the central bank’s international division, were named as “specially designated global terrorist[s]” by the Treasury Department, who accused them of funnelling millions of dollars to the terrorist Hezbollah militants through an Iraqi bank, Al-Bilad Islamic Bank.
The Treasury said that Seif had undermined the credibility of the central bank and that the funds had been used to “enrich and support the violent and radical agenda of Hezbollah”.
These sanctions don’t technically target Iran’s central bank itself, but they are likely to help isolate Iran from the global financial system, as Seif oversees major financial decisions in Iran and any transactions using his signature could violate the sanctions. This means that international companies and governments will be discouraged from working with the bank.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said: “The United States will not permit Iran’s increasingly brazen abuse of the international financial system. The global community must remain vigilant against Iran’s deceptive efforts to provide financial support to its terrorist proxies.”
Last week, Trump pulled out of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal as he believed that it was not in line with the USA’s national security interests. He is now wanting to put pressure on Iran to get the mullahs back to the negotiating table over all of Iran’s malign behaviour.
Whereas European leaders wanted to preserve the deal, but as US sanctions grow this looks less and less likely. Not many European businesses would risk being shut out of the US market in order to trade with Iranian regime.
B. Taleblu, an Iran sanctions expert at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said: “Trump can use this in his arguments with Europe to deter business with Iran. All of this is another arrow in the quiver.”
The US is expected to make more economic moves against Iran in the coming weeks, including preventing Iran from changing its rials in Western “hard currencies” to fund terrorism.
Al-Bilad Islamic Bank and its CEO Aras Habib were also hit with US sanctions, as was Muhammad Qasir, a Hezbollah official who the Treasury described as a “critical conduit” for the transfer of funds.