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US imposes ‘expanded’ Iran sanctions for coordinating with Russia to provide oil to Syria

The US government has accused Iran of funding oil shipments

Clark Mindock
New York
Tuesday 20 November 2018 21:43 GMT

The United States has imposed further sanctions on Iran, accusing the country of providing millions of barrels of oil and major funding to the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad and militant groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah.

The new round of sanctions were announced on Tuesday in a conference call between reporters and senior Trump administration officials. Nine targets in a network of Iranian, Russian, and Syrian actors we “an expansion" of sanctions to "maximise the costs to Iran”.

“Today we are acting against a complex scheme Iran and Russia have used to bolster the Assad regime and generate funds for Iranian malign activity,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said.

The scheme detailed by the Treasury Department alleges that the Central Bank of Iran helped Syria pay for Russian oil by sending payments to Russian firms through an Iranian company.

In order to facilitate oil shipments Russia coordinate the shipment of oil to Syria using vessels that allegedly switch off their tracking devices in the process to avoid detection.

Among those targeted are Syrian national Mohammad Amer Alchwiki and his Russia-based company, Global Vision Group, the Treasury Department said.

Other targets include: Syrian national Hajji Abd Al-Nasir, Lebanon national Muhammad Qasim Al-Bazzal and Russian national Andrey Dogaev as well as Iranian nationals Rasoul Sajjad and Hossein Yaghoubi Miab.

State-owned Russian company Promsyrioimport, a subsidiary of the Russian Ministry of Energy, was also sanctioned along with Mir Business Bank and Iran-based Tadbir Kish Medical and Pharmaceutical Company.

The Treasury's “designation” of the individuals and entities effectively cuts them off from the global financial system by blocking any of their assets under US jurisdiction and in effect warning non-US institutions against dealing with them.

“The Iranian regime continues to prioritise spending money on fomenting terror over supporting its own people,” Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Sigal Mandelker said. “This is yet another example of the regime using the proceeds of millions of barrels of its oil to fund terrorists and the murderous Assad regime to the detriment of its own people”.

The US reimposed sanctions on Iran earlier this month after the Trump administration previously announced would pull out of the Iran nuclear accord. President Donald Trump had repeatedly called that deal one of the worst in history, and said that he wanted to see tighter restrictions on Iran if the deal would survive.

P​​ushback from international allies was not enough to keep Mr Trump from tearing up the deal, however.

In response to those sanctions, Iran foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said that his country would continue selling oil, and would resort to selling their goods on the black market if necessary.

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“We have always had various ways of selling our oil and we will continue to have ways of selling our oil,” Mr Zarif said.

“If we cannot openly trade our commodities, if we cannot get what we want to get from open, transparent international transactions, we will not lie down and wait to die. We will do it. We will do it through whatever means that is necessary,” he continued.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and the Iranian government did not immediately respond to the newest sanctions against Iran.

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