US imposes new Iran-related sanctions on Iraq-based firm, associates

An Iraq-based company and two associates have been sanctioned by the US for supplying millions of dollars' worth of weaponry to fighters from the Quds Force The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, whose Iraqi branch the Quds Force branch of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, pictured here in 2018. (AFP/File Photo)
Updated 13 June 2019

US imposes new Iran-related sanctions on Iraq-based firm, associates

  • SWRC and two associates have “covertly facilitated the IRGC-QF’s access to the Iraqi financial system”
  • The IRGC-QF were previously sanctioned in October 2007

WASHINGTON: The US has imposed Iran-related sanctions on an Iraq-based company and two people, according to a notice posted on the US Treasury Department website on Wednesday.

The Treasury said in a statement that it had imposed the sanctions on South Wealth Resources Company (SWRC) and two of its Iraqi associates, which the US accuses of trafficking hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of weapons to militia in Iraq backed by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF).

SWRC and the two associates have “covertly facilitated the IRGC-QF’s access to the Iraqi financial system to evade sanctions,” the statement said. 

The Treasury added that the scheme also served to enrich previously sanctioned Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis, an Iraqi adviser to IRGC-QF Commander Qasem Soleimani, who has run weapons smuggling networks and participated in bombings of Western embassies and attempted assassinations in the region.

“Treasury is taking action to shut down Iranian weapons smuggling networks that have been used to arm regional proxies of the IRGC Qods Force in Iraq, while personally enriching regime insiders,” said Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin.

“The Iraqi financial sector and the broader international financial system must harden their defenses against the continued deceptive tactics emanating from Tehran in order to avoid complicity in the IRGC’s ongoing sanctions evasion schemes and other malign activities.”

The IRGC-QF were previously sanctioned in October 2007. It is a branch of the IRGC responsible for external operations and, according to the US Treasury, has provided material support to numerous terrorist groups, including the Taliban, Lebanese Hizballah, HAMAS, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

The US has designated it a key component of Iran’s destabilizing regional activities. 

The IRGC-QF’s parent organization, the IRGC, was sanctioned in October 13, 2017, and on April 15 was designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization by the Secretary of State.


Change needed in Lebanon after Beirut blast, says German foreign minister

Updated 57 min 19 sec ago

Change needed in Lebanon after Beirut blast, says German foreign minister

  • Maas gave a check for over 1 million euro to the Lebanese Red Cross
  • It is part of 20 million euros in humanitarian aid from Germany

BEIRUT: Germany’s foreign minister said on Wednesday that Lebanon needed a government that can fight corruption and enact reforms as he toured Beirut port, scene of the devastating explosion that has triggered protests and led the government to resign.
Last week’s blast at a warehouse storing highly-explosive material for years killed at least 171 people, injured some 6,000 and damaged swathes of the Mediterranean city, compounding a deep economic and financial crisis.
“It is impossible that things go on as before,” Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said. “The international community is ready to invest but needs securities for these investments. It is important to have a government that fights the corruption.”
“Many in Europe have a lot of interest for this country. They want to know that there are economic reforms and good governance. Whoever takes over responsibility in Lebanon has a lot to do.”
Maas gave a check for over 1 million euro to the Lebanese Red Cross, part of 20 million euros in humanitarian aid from Germany.
International humanitarian assistance has poured in but foreign countries have made clear they will not write blank cheques to a state viewed by its own people as deeply corrupt. Donors are seeking enactment of long-demanded reforms in return for financial assistance to pull Lebanon from economic meltdown.
The resignation of Prime Minister Hassan Diab’s government has plunged Lebanon into deeper uncertainty. Its talks with the International Monetary Fund for a bailout had already been put on hold over a row between the government, banks and politicians about the scale of vast financial losses.
Sitting amid the debris, Lebanese expressed their frustration at the state for abandoning them in their desperate efforts to rebuild homes and businesses wrecked in the blast.
“Who knows what will happen. How will we get back to business,” said Antoinne Matta, 74, whose safe and lock store was heavily damaged by the blast. Five employees were wounded.
“We in Lebanon are used to the government not doing anything.”
Unrest has erupted with Lebanese calling for the wholesale removal of a ruling class they brand as responsible for the country’s woes. The financial crisis has ravaged the currency, paralyzed banks and sent prices soaring.
Officials have said the blast could have caused losses of $15 billion, a bill Lebanon cannot pay, given the depths of the financial crisis that has seen people frozen out of their savings accounts since October amid dollar scarcity.
The central bank has instructed local banks to extend interest-free dollar loans to individuals and businesses for essential repairs, and that it would in turn provide those financial institutions with the funding.
Bandali Gharabi, whose photo studio was destroyed, said that so far local authorities had only give him a compensation sheet to fill out. He does not know if the bank will provide financial assistance because he already has a car loan.
“Everything is gone,” he said. “I just want someone to rebuild my shop.”
President Michel Aoun has promised a swift and transparent investigation into the blast at a warehouse where authorities say more than 2,000 tons of ammonium nitrate was stored for years without safety measures. He has said the probe would look into whether it was negligence, an accident or external factors.
Reuters reported that Aoun and Diab were warned in July about the warehoused ammonium nitrate, according to documents and senior security sources.
The presidency did not respond to requests for comment about the warning letter.
An emergency donor conference raised pledges of nearly 253 million euros ($298 million) for immediate humanitarian relief.
Volunteers and construction workers with bulldozers were still clearing wreckage from neighborhoods more than a week after the blast. Rows of destroyed cars were still parked in front of damaged stores and demolished buildings.
Nagy Massoud, 70, was sitting on the balcony when the blast gutted his apartment. He was saved by a wooden door that protected him from flying debris. A stove injured his wife.
His pension is frozen in a bank account he cannot access due to capital controls prompted by the economic crisis.
“Where is the government,” he said, looking around his shattered apartment.