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Wednesday, 27 March 2019 19:12

US Sanctions Firms Accused of Helping Fund Iran's Militias

The United States on Tuesday imposed fresh sanctions on a network of companies and people it said were helping to raise billions of dollars to fund the operations of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards.

The US Treasury blacklisted 25 people and organizations, including a clutch of front companies that were working on behalf of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and Iran’s defense ministry to raise money for their activities.

The targeted institutions include banks and other financial institutions such as Ansar Bank, Atlas Exchange, Iranian Atlas Company, the U.S. Treasury said in a statement.

“We are exposing an extensive sanctions evasion network that was established by the Iranian regime to evade American sanctions,” Brian Hook, the U.S. special envoy for Iran, told reporters. “With this action today we are increasing our pressure even further on the Iranian regime.”

Hook described Ansar as “the banker” of the Revolutionary Guards and its overseas operations run by Quds Force. He said the bank paid the salaries of IRGC-Quds Force employees and Iranian foreign fighters in Syria.

As recently as 2019, Ansar Bank officials maintained close associations with senior IRGC-QF officials and financial facilitators who use accounts at Ansar Bank to keep the equivalent of millions of dollars, the statement added.

“Since 2016, Ansar Exchange conducted currency exchange services for Ansar Bank totaling over one billion dollars. Over the past few years, Ansar Exchange also directly provided MODAFL with the equivalent of approximately 100 million in dollars and euros, in addition to the equivalent of approximately 130 million dollars’ worth of goods and services ultimately destined for the benefit of the IRGC.”

Ansar Bank also extended the equivalent of millions of dollars as a loan to an IRGC-QF front company. IRGC-QF officials’ salaries also have been paid using Ansar Bank, and Ansar Bank is used by the IRGC-QF to pay the salaries of its foreign fighters, particularly those based in Syria.

On October 16, 2018, Treasury designated two of these Syria-based, IRGC-QF-backed militias, the Fatemiyoun Division and Zainabiyoun Brigade, which are comprised of foreign fighters, including child soldiers as young as 14 years old.

The US on Friday imposed similar sanctions on 31 scientists, technicians and companies in Iran for involvement in nuclear and missile research and development programs.

The Syrian Coalition earlier said that Iran poses the greatest threat in the Middle East, demanding concrete steps to severe the arms of that state sponsor of terrorism.

The Coalition stressed that Iran is not aiding Assad in the killing of the Syrian people only, but also threatens the security of the whole region by sending sleeper cells and sectarian militias to more than one country. Iran’s far-reaching arms are spreading chaos and undermining security in the countries of the region. (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Department)