The United States relations with Iran and Russia have been straining lately. The US actions against both countries have now led them to coalesce against their opponent, forming a network to send million of barrels of oil to Syria and hundreds of millions of dollars to indirectly fund militant groups Hamas and Hezbollah.
According to the Tuesday statement of the Treasury Department, the Iranian-Russian network would have to face US sanctions. It described that the complex arrangement involved a Syrian citizen, who shipped Iranian oil to Syria with the aid of a Russian state-owned company.
It also stated that Syria then helped transfer hundreds of millions of dollars in cash to Hamas — the Palestinian group that rules the Gaza Strip — as well as Hezbollah that functions as a political party that is part of the Lebanese government and as a militia.
Russia has apparently sought to undercut US policy towards Syria, where Washington and Moscow support opposite sides of a civil war that began in 2011. It also has gone against the policy towards Iran, where the US wants to curb its support for militant proxies, as well as nuclear and missile programs.
As a result, the Treasury Department has announced new sanctions against individuals and entities it alleged belong to an Iranian-Russian network in the arrangement.
The Treasury also said that the vessels carrying Iranian oil since 2014 have switched off transponders to conceal deliveries to Syria. It also added that the US Coast Guard and the State Department had issued an advisory to the maritime community regarding the sanctions risk of shipping oil to the Syrian government.
In a statement announcing US sanctions, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said, “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.”
“Central Bank of Iran officials continue to exploit the international financial system,” he added.
A sanctions expert at Columbia University, Richard Nephew said, “The arrangement exposes Russia’s efforts to support Assad for their own interests, which has the function of thwarting the US desire to no longer have Assad in power.”
According to the Treasury Department, Syrian Mohammad Amer Alchwiki and his Russia-based company — Global Vision Group — were central to the delivery of Iranian oil to Syria and the transfer of funds to the “lethal proxies” of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force. They are among the individuals and entities targeted by the Tuesday’s sanctions.
According to the statement, other targets include– Lebanon national Muhammad Qasim Al-Bazzal, Syrian national Hajji Abd Al-Nasir and Russian national Andrey Dogaev, as well as Iranian nationals Rasoul Sajjad and Hossein Yaghoubi Miab who worked to facilitate Alchwiki’s transfers.
The entities sanctioned include Mir Business Bank and Iran-based Tadbir Kish Medical and Pharmaceutical Company. Moreover, a state-owned Russian company and subsidiary of the Russian Ministry of Energy Promsyrioimport that is accused of facilitating shipments of Iranian oil to Syria is also a part of the sanctions.
Under the sanctions, the Treasury’s designated individuals and entities will be cut off from the global financial system, where any of their assets under US jurisdiction will be blocked and non-US institutions will be warned against dealing with them.
On May 8, Donald Trump had abandoned the 2015 Iran nuclear deal; a decision disagreed by Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany.
On November 5, Trump reimposed the US sanctions to halt the oil exports of Iran. He also threatened more action to stop its “outlaw” policies.
On the other hand, Iran regarded Trump’s actions economic warfare and pledged to oppose the US sanctions.
The reapplication of sanctions was opposed by the European diplomats, who had warned the Trump administration of its consequences. They had highlighted the possibility where other countries could coalesce together.
While Trump had remained adamant about the sanctions, looks like the speculations of European diplomats have turned true with the Iranian-Russian network.