WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States said Tuesday that they had destroyed an Iranian-Russian network that sent millions of barrels of oil to Syria and hundreds of millions of dollars to indirectly finance the militant groups Hamas and Hezbollah.
FILE PHOTO: A teenager works at a makeshift oil refinery site in Marchmarin City, southern landscape of Idlib, Syria on December 16, 2015. REUTERS / Khalil Ashawi
The complicated agreement, described by the US Treasury Department in a statement, involved a Syrian citizen who sent Iranian oil to Syria with his Russian-based company through a state-owned Russian company.
Syria then helped transfer hundreds of millions of dollars in cash to Hezbollah, which serves as the political party of the Lebanese government and militia, and to Hamas, the Palestinian group that governs the Gaza Strip.
Since 2014 ships with Iranian oil have shut down transponders to hide supplies to Syria, the Ministry of Finance said. The US State Department and the US Coast Guard had given the maritime community a piece of advice about the sanctioning risks of oil transportation to Syria.
The alleged agreement shows how Russia sought to undermine US policy towards Syria, where Washington and Moscow are opposed to a civil war that started in 2011, and support for militant proxies to Iran, which the US wants to restrict its nuclear and missile programs.
"Today we are tackling a complex system that Iran and Russia have used to strengthen the (Syrian President Bashar al) Assad regime and raise funds for Iranian malicious activities," said US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in one Declaration, in which he announced sanctions against the statements made by him were bound to the network.
"Iran's central banks continue to leverage the international financial system," he added.
Richard Nephew, a sanctioning expert at Columbia University, said: "The agreement reveals Russia's efforts to support Assad for its own interests, with the task of thwarting the US's desire to have Assad out of power. "
Among the targets were Syrian Mohammad Amer Alchwiki and his Russian-based company, the Global Vision Group, which was responsible for supplying Iranian oil to Syria and transferring funds to the "deadly deputies" of the Quds Force of the Islamic Corps of the Revolutionary Guard (Quds Force ) were central, department said in a statement.
Other targets include Syrian citizen Hajji Abd Al-Nasir, Lebanon citizen Muhammad Qasim Al-Bazzal and Russian citizen Andrey Dogaev, as well as Iranian citizens Rasoul Sajjad and Hossein Yaghoubi Miab.
Sajjad and Yaghoobi, agents of the Iranian central bank, sought to facilitate alchemical transfers.
The sanctioned companies included the state-owned Russian company Promsyrioimport, a subsidiary of the Russian Ministry of Energy, which, according to the US Treasury Department, had facilitated the supply of Iranian oil to Syria, as well as Mir Business Bank and Iran-based Tadbir Kish Medical and Pharmaceutical Company ,
The Treasury's "naming" of individuals and corporations effectively blocks them from the global financial system by blocking assets under US jurisdiction and, in fact, warning non-US institutions to act with them.
The United States is opposed to Britain's, France's and Germany's and Russia's and China's decision to renounce Iran's nuclear deal with Iran in 2015, with other world powers during the Democratic administration's May 8 election President Barack Obama was negotiated.
The agreement removed many US and other economic sanctions from Iran in exchange for Tehran's commitment to cut its nuclear program.
Trump restored US sanctions on 5 November and threatened to take further action to stop his "outlaw" policy.
Iran, for its part, described Trump as an economic warfare and vowed to ignore the sanctions. European powers that continue to support the nuclear agreement rejected the re-use of sanctions.
Reporting by Arshad Mohammed in Washington; Additional coverage by Susan Heavey, Lisa Lambert, and Mohammad Zargham; Arrangement by Chizu Nomiyama and James Dalgleish