US sanctions alleged Russia-Iran scheme to send oil to Syria

BY MORGAN CHALFANT AND JORDAN FABIAN

Source: The Hill

 

The Trump administration on Tuesday announced new sanctions designed to disrupt an alleged Iranian and Russian scheme to ship oil to Syria, billing it as part of Washington’s “maximum pressure” campaign on Tehran and a push to cut off fuel supplies for Syrian leader Bashar Assad.

The Treasury Department designated nine targets linked to what it called an illicit plot involving officials in Iran working with Russian companies to send millions of barrels of oil to the Assad government in exchange for funds that Tehran then used to fund designated terrorist groups.

Those sanctioned include two officials working with the Central Bank of Iran, a Syrian national and his Russia-based company Global Vision Group, and Russia’s state-owned Promsyrioimport, a subsidiary of the Kremlin’s energy ministry, as well as its first deputy director.

The administration is also sanctioning an Iranian entity that purports to be a medical and pharmaceutical company that U.S. officials say has been repeatedly used to facilitate illicit money transfers in the scheme.

“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,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement. “Central Bank of Iran officials continue to exploit the international financial system, and in this case even used a company whose name suggests a trade in humanitarian goods as a tool to facilitate financial transfers supporting this oil scheme.”

Trump administration officials said Syria sent hundreds of millions of U.S. dollars to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Quds Force in return for the oil shipments, money that was then used to fund Hamas and Hezbollah.

The administration also issued a global maritime advisory warning those in the shipping industry that they run the risk of U.S. sanctions if they are involved in shipping oil to Syria.

Officials described the action as the latest effort to ratchet up pressure on Iran for its “destructive and destabilizing behavior” beyond the reimposition of sanctions lifted under the Obama administration as part of the Iranian nuclear deal. Trump announced his decision to withdraw from the deal in May and reinstated sanctions on Tehran earlier this month.