London, 22 Nov – The US has taken steps to disrupt an Iranian-Russian network that smuggled millions of barrels of oil to Syria with the hundreds of millions of dollars in profits being used to indirectly fund militant groups, like Hamas and Hezbollah.
In a statement on Tuesday, the US Treasury explained that the complicated arrangement between the rogue states involved a Syrian citizen using his Russia-based company to ship Iranian oil to Syria with the aid of a Russian state-owned company, violating US sanctions on Iran and Syria. After that, Syria helped to transfer hundreds of millions of dollars in cash to Iran-backed militant groups Hezbollah and Hamas; both of which are on the US terrorism blacklist.
The Treasury Department explained that it, the State Department and the US Coast Guard had issued an advisory about the sanctions risks of shipping oil to Syria’s government, but since 2014 vessels carrying Iranian oil have switched off transponders to conceal deliveries to Syria.
This shows that Iran, which the US is urging to cut support for militant groups, and Russia have subverted US policy on Syria during the civil war, where Iran and Russia both support the Bashar al-Assad dictatorship.
US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement announcing sanctions on those involved in the network: “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.”
Those sanctioned include:
• Iranians and Central Bank of Iran officials Rasoul Sajjad and Hossein Yaghoubi Miab
• Syrians Mohammad Amer Alchwiki and Hajji Abd Al-Nasir
• Lebanon national Muhammad Qasim Al-Bazzal
• Russian Andrey Dogaev
• Russian-based company Global Vision Group
• State-owned Russian company Promsyrioimport
• Mir Business Bank
• Iran-based Tadbir Kish Medical and Pharmaceutical Company
This shows that the officials from the Central Bank of Iran, which was sanctioned by Iran as an entire entity earlier this month, are continuing to “exploit the international financial system”, Mnuchin said.
The US and Iran have been at odds since Donald Trump took power and especially since he withdrew from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal between six world powers and Iran in May. The US reinforced economic sanctions that were lifted under the deal and many non-nuclear sanctions beyond.
The US wants to bring Iran back to the negotiating table for a new deal that addresses all of the country’s malign behaviour, incusing support for terrorists and interference in the affairs of other countries.