November 22, 2018
The United States said on Tuesday it had moved to disrupt an Iranian-Russian network that sent millions of barrels of oil to Syria and hundreds of millions of dollars to indirectly fund the Hamas and Hezbollah terrorist groups, Reuters reported.
The complicated arrangement, described by the Treasury in a statement, involved a Syrian citizen using his Russia-based company to ship Iranian oil to Syria with the aid of a Russian state-owned company.
Syria then helped transfer hundreds of millions of dollars in cash to Hezbollah, which functions as Iran's proxy in Lebanon, as well as to Hamas, the terrorist group that rules Gaza.
Since 2014, vessels carrying Iranian oil have switched off transponders to conceal deliveries to Syria, the Treasury Department said, adding that it, the State Department and the US Coast Guard had issued an advisory to the maritime community about the sanctions risks of shipping oil to Syria's government.
The alleged arrangement shows how Russia has sought to undercut US policy toward Syria, where Washington and Moscow back opposite sides of a civil war that began in 2011, as well as toward Iran, which the United States wants to curb its nuclear and missile programs and support for militant proxies.
"Today we are acting against a complex scheme Iran and Russia have used to bolster the (Syrian President Bashar al-) Assad regime and generate funds for Iranian malign activity," said US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in a statement announcing sanctions on those it said were tied to the network.
"Central Bank of Iran officials continue to exploit the international financial system," he added, according to Reuters.
Those targeted include Syrian Mohammad Amer Alchwiki and his Russia-based company, Global Vision Group, which were central to the delivery of Iranian oil to Syria and the transfer of funds to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps' Quds Force's "lethal proxies," the Treasury Department said in a statement.
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, the statement said.
Sajjad and Yaghoobi, Central Bank of Iran officials, worked to facilitate Alchwiki's transfers, it said.
Others sanctioned include state-owned Russian company Promsyrioimport, a subsidiary of the Russian Ministry of Energy, which the Treasury said had facilitated shipments of Iranian oil to Syria, as well as 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 US is at odds with the other signatories to the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran over President Donald Trump's decision last May to withdraw from the agreement and reimpose sanctions on the Islamic Republic.
While Trump reimposed the sanctions on Iran that had been frozen as part of the deal, the European signatories to the 2015 deal did not agree with Trump's decision to leave the agreement and have been trying to save the accord.
The European Union has vowed to help Iran evade the economic sanctions imposed by the US, shielding companies doing business with the rogue state in an effort to preserve the nuclear deal.