The United States on Thursday imposed sanctions on an Iranian oil smuggling and money laundering ring allegedly backed by Russia. According to a statement from the US Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), the Washington-designated network is led by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force (IRGC-QF) and Hezbollah. The step comes as the United States tries to revive the nuclear deal with Tehran.
The US Treasury Department said the illicit oil network, led by Iranian forces, was “supported by senior brass in the Russian Federation”. Moreover, the Oil Smuggling Directorate also included Chinese and a former Afghan diplomat. The company has reportedly raised hundreds of millions of dollars for Iran’s Quds Force and the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah (which is backed by Tehran). The US Treasury statement also alleged that revenue generated by the network was used by Tehran to fund proxy militant groups.
“This oil smuggling ring, led by US-designated IRGC-QF official Behnam Shahriyari and former IRGC-QF official Rostam Ghasemi, and backed by senior Russian Federation government officials and of state-run economic bodies, has acted as a vital part of Iran’s oil revenue generation, as well as its support for proxy militant groups that continue to perpetuate conflict and suffering throughout the region,” said the US Treasury Department said in a statement.
What are the Iranian Quds Forces?
For the uninitiated, the Quds Forces are a paramilitary branch of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards. It also practices foreign espionage and controls Iran-allied militias in foreign countries. The United States, under the leadership of Donald Trump, designated Iran’s Revolutionary Guards as a “foreign terrorist organization” in 2019, the first time Washington has identified another country’s military as an organization. terrorist.
“The United States remains fully committed to holding the Iranian regime accountable for its support of terrorist proxies destabilizing the Middle East,” Treasury Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian E. Nelson said in a statement. a statement.
The sanctions imposed by the United States imply that all assets and interests in the property of individuals and entities linked to the illegal oil smuggling network, and of all individuals who are detained, directly or indirectly attached to the network – in the United States – States will be blocked and reported to OFAC. No business, corporation or individual based in the United States will transact with the Prohibited Network or any entity related to it unless authorized to do so by a special license issued by OFAC.
What is at stake for the United States?
The ban comes as the United States seeks to restart stalled negotiations with Iran on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). The agreement signed between the P5+1 countries – China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States and Germany – aimed to prevent Iran from increasing its uranium enrichment in exchange for the US easing some of the sanctions. However, Trump pulled out of the deal in 2018. The deal lay in the rubble of negotiations, with no concrete solution.