WASHINGTON • The United States Treasury Department has slapped sanctions on an Iranian paramilitary group along with a network of businesses that was providing it with financing, as part of Washington's campaign of maximum economic pressure against Teheran.
The announcement came two weeks before the Trump administration reimposes some of the US' harshest sanctions against Iran, including its oil sector. The Treasury said a network of more than 20 businesses known as the Bonyad Taavon Basij was financing the Basij Resistance Force, a component of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
It also accused the hardline militia of sending child soldiers to Syria in support of President Bashar al-Assad's regime.
"The international community must understand that business entanglements with the Bonyad Taavon Basij network and IRGC front companies have real world humanitarian consequences," said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Tuesday. "This helps fuel the Iranian regime's violent ambitions across the Middle East."
The Basij, a paramilitary force formed soon after the 1979 revolution, is one of the Iranian regime's primary enforcers of internal security with branches in every province and city of Iran, according to the US Treasury.
Iran yesterday called the new US sanctions an act of "blind vindictiveness".
"America's new sanctions are a clear insult to international and legal mechanisms and a result of the US government's blind vindictiveness against the Iranian nation," said foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi.
He called Washington's "lack of adherence to international legal mechanisms" a threat not only "to the Iranian people's interests but also to the world's stability and security".
Among the other companies singled out was Iran Tractor Manufacturing Company, the largest tractor manufacturer in the Middle East and North Africa that predates the Iranian revolution.
It generates millions of dollars in profit for the investment firms that represent the Basij.
Also targeted was Iran's Zinc Mines Development Company, described as the country's "pre-eminent, multibillion-dollar zinc and lead mining and processing holding company".
Washington pulled out of a landmark 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers in May and is reimposing punishing sanctions on the Middle Eastern country, hoping to pressure Teheran into what US President Donald Trump calls a "better deal".
Full US sanctions are set to hit Iran next month and the country's economy is already taking a beating.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS