US says it has blocked billions of dollars from reaching Iran and its proxies

The IRGC has been blamed for a number of attacks on international shipping in or near the Strait of Hormuz. (AFP/File photo)
Updated 20 August 2019

US says it has blocked billions of dollars from reaching Iran and its proxies

  • Special representative Brian Hook said Iran's military budget has plummeted because of US sanctions
  • Mike Pompeo tells UN Security Council that Iran is engaged in 'extortion diplomacy'

LONDON: The US has blocked billions of dollars from reaching Iran and its Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, a senior State Department official said Tuesday.

The elite force, which spearheads Tehran’s aggressive regional policies, has been the chief target of wide-ranging sanctions from the Trump administration. 

It has been blamed for a number of attacks on international shipping in or near the Strait of Hormuz in recent months as tensions have escalated between Iran and both its Arab and Western rivals. 

In a briefing on Middle East security, Brian Hook, the US Special Representative for Iran, said the regime and its proxies are weaker today than when Donald Trump took office.

Hook said Iran’s military budget went down 10 percent during the first year of his administration and 28 percent during the second year. That included a 17 percent cut for the IRGC and its foreign wing the Quds Force, he said.

“We are telling Iran that it is not acceptable to provide lethal assistance on a regular basis to terrorist organizations,” Hook said.

Responding to questions about US attempts to halt the release of an Iranian oil tanker from Gibraltar, Hook said as long as Iran was moving illicit oil around the world to fund its terrorist operations it is important to do something about it. 

“This regime, unlike most regime’s in the world, uses oil revenue to support terrorism and to fund terrorist organizations and to fund its missile program,” Hook said 

Later Tuesday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told the UN Security Council that Iran had been engaging in "extortion diplomacy." During a meeting on Middle East stability he listed a string of aggressive actions carried out by Tehran and its proxies in recent months, including attacks by Houthi militants against Saudi Arabia. 

Iran's actions in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Yemen are also having "devastating humanitarian consequences," Pompeo said. 

Pompeo told MSNBC earlier that the US had removed nearly 2.7 million barrels of Iranian oil from global markets as a result of Washington's decision to reimpose sanctions on all purchases of Iran's crude.

He said the move had denied “Iran the wealth to create their terror campaign around the world, and we have managed to keep the oil markets fully supplied.”

The US started ramping up sanctions on Iran after withdrawing last year from an international accord to limit Tehran’s nuclear program.

*With Reuters


‘Make yourself invaluable’: Carlos Ghosn offers executive training in troubled Lebanon

Updated 29 September 2020

‘Make yourself invaluable’: Carlos Ghosn offers executive training in troubled Lebanon

  • The Lebanese-French executive has unveiled a plan to shake up the business school at the Université Saint-Esprit de Kaslik
  • Ghosn plans programs to coach top executives, offer technology training and help start-ups that will create jobs

BEIRUT: Carlos Ghosn, the former Nissan and Renault head who fled Japan where he was facing trial, is launching a university management and business program in Lebanon, a nation mired in a deep crisis blamed on years of misrule, mismanagement and corruption.
Nine months after his dramatic escape to Beirut from Tokyo, the Lebanese-French executive has unveiled a plan to shake up the business school at the Université Saint-Esprit de Kaslik (USEK), a private university north of the Lebanese capital.
Ghosn, credited with turning round the Japanese and French carmakers before he faced charges of financial wrongdoing that he denies, plans programs to coach top executives, offer technology training and help start-ups that will create jobs.
Ghosn, a fugitive from a Japanese justice system he says was rigged against him, has found refuge in his childhood home Lebanon where the economy is collapsing under debts amassed since the 1975-1990 civil war. A devastating blast in Beirut on Aug. 4 compounded Lebanon’s woes.
“Obviously I am not interested in politics but I will dedicate time and effort into supporting Lebanon during this difficult period,” he told Reuters at the weekend, ahead of Tuesday’s formal launch during a press conference of his new university program.
“This is about creating jobs, employment and entrepreneurs to allow society to take its role into the reconstruction of the country,” Ghosn told a press conference at USEK on Tuesday.
Ghosn, who was approached by USEK in the weeks after arriving in Lebanon at the end of December, said the programs aimed to offer practical help. He will help supervise.
Drawing on his experience, the focus for the executive program would be turning around companies in trouble, corporations struggling with a troubled environment and how to “make yourself invaluable” in a company.
Ghosn said several international executives had agreed to give pro bono courses, such as Jaguar and Land Rover Chief Executive Thierry Bolloré, former Goldman Sachs vice-chairman Ken Curtis and venture capitalist Raymond Debbane.
The short courses, expected to start in March, would be open to 15 to 20 senior executives in Lebanon and the Middle East.
‘ROLE MODEL’
“The role model is my experience, what I think are the basic needs of a top executive in a very competitive environment,” he said, adding that, when he was in charge, Nissan’s executive training program in Japan had been open to other companies.
The second USEK program, subsidised by the executive program, would train people on new technologies, such as computer-assisted design and artificial intelligence.
Ghosn said Lebanon’s jewelry exporters were among those who would benefit from the use of software to help with designs.
The third program would act as an incubator for start-ups, and he aimed to invest in two projects. “I am mainly interested in projects that have environmental impact,” he said, citing the example of a project to turn sewage into fertilizer.
“You are creating entrepreneurs which are badly needed, you are creating employment,” he said, adding he had been persuaded to work with USEK by the president of the Maronite Christian institution, Father Talal Hachem, and his young team.
Ghosn said he had also chosen to work with USEK, rather than some of the bigger Lebanese universities, because he liked the idea of working with an institution that drew in a broad range of students, not just the wealthy.
“These students need help more than anybody else. This is the class that has been smashed by the situation today,” he told Reuters.
“I’m going to help in the way I can,” he said. “I’m going to help build the economy by helping to solve problems that every Lebanese is facing today.”