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US sanctions Iran bank chief as a ‘global terrorist’ who funnels millions to Hezbollah

Valiollah Seif, Governor of Central Bank of Iran. (Mohammad Hassanzadeh/Tasnim News Agency)
May 15, 2018

The United States on Tuesday designated the head of Iran’s central bank a “specially designated global terrorist.”

The Trump Administration accused Iran central bank governor Valiollah Seif of giving millions of dollars to Hezbollah, a terrorist group based in Lebanon, the Associated Press reported.

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said Seif “covertly funneled” money from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) through Iraq’s al-Bilad Islamic Bank in order to aid Hezbollah, the Associated Press reported.

The IRGC is Iran’s strongest military force that was founded after the Iranian revolution in 1979. While Iran’s regular military, the Iranian Army or the Artesh, exists to defend the nation’s borders from outside enemies, the IRGC exists specifically to counter domestic affairs in order to protect the country’s radical Islamic system. They are the defense against military coups or “deviant movements” against the government.

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The U.S. Treasury is also imposing sanctions on the Iraq bank and its chairman.

The U.S. said it would also sanction Seif; they are secondary sanctions, which means if someone does business with him, they could be cut off from the U.S. financial system, the Associated Press pointed out.

The U.S. Treasury Department also issued economic sanctions against another top official, in addition to Seif.

The Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control said Seif and Ali Tarzali, the assistant director of the international department at the central bank of Iran, would be sanctioned, Bloomberg reported.

President Trump just last week announced that the U.S. was withdrawing from the “defective” Iran nuclear deal and imposing the “highest level” economic sanctions on the country.

“The United States will withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal,” Trump said, calling the deal “defective at its core” and a “disastrous deal” that gave the Iranian “regime of great terror” billions of dollars.

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“The Iranian regime is the leading state sponsor of terror. No action taken by the regime has been more dangerous than its pursuit of nuclear weapons and the means of delivering them,” the President added.

The U.S. faced a May 12 deadline to decide whether or not to remain in the Iran nuclear deal.

President Trump has long been critical of the Obama-era agreement, calling it an “embarrassment” and “one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the United States has ever entered into.”

Iran’s foreign minister had said last week that the nation will not renegotiate the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

President Trump in April said Iran would pay a “price” if it threatens the U.S. “in any way” and restarts its nuclear program.

Earlier this month, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said in a live broadcast that if President Trump follows through with his promise to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal, the United States “will surely regret it.”

“Iran will not violate the nuclear deal, but if the United States withdraws from the deal, they will surely regret it. Our response will be stronger than what they imagine and they would see that within a week,” he had said.

Iran has promised to ramp up its nuclear program if the deal collapses, though many feel as though the deal has done little to diminish Iran’s nuclear efforts anyway. Iran insists its efforts have been for research and technology, and that its missiles are purely defensive.