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US sanctions two networks ‘supporting Iran’s WMD Program’

Iranian Airborne Cruise missile (Hamed Malekpour/WikiCommons)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

The United States has imposed sanctions on two networks it says are engaged in “covert procurement activities” benefiting Iranian military organizations and supporting Iran’s “missile proliferation programs,” the Treasury Department has said.

One of the networks used a Hong Kong-based front company to “evade U.S. and international sanctions and facilitate tens of millions of dollars’ worth of proliferation activities targeting U.S. technology and components, for persons related to the [Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps] (IRGC) and the Iranian regime,” the Treasury said in a statement.

One “entity” was sanctioned in Hong Kong, the State Department said in an August 28 statement.

The Treasury Department said the other network is based in Iran and has “procured large amounts” of aluminum alloy products on behalf of Iranian entities “owned or controlled” by Iran’s Defense Ministry.

Nine entities and individuals based in Iran were sanctioned.

“The individuals and entities named are linked to organizations such as Iran’s Aviation Industries Organization, which manages Iran’s military aviation industry, Iran Electronics Industries, which is owned by Iran’s Ministry of Defense Armed Forces Logistics, and an entity that supports the [IRGC] and Iran’s Naval Defense Missile Industry Group,” the State Department said.

The sanctioned individuals and entities will be denied access to the U.S. financial system and listed as “proliferators of weapons of mass destruction,” the State Department said.

In addition, assets connected to the United States will be frozen and others who “provide significant goods, services, or support” to them may themselves face sanctions.

“As the Iranian regime attempts to use complex schemes to hide its efforts to bolster its WMD program, the U.S. government will continue to thwart them at every turn,” Treasury Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Sigal Mandelker said in the statement.

‘Maximum Pressure’

The sanctions are part of a U.S. campaign of “maximum pressure” on Iran to force Tehran to the negotiating table over its nuclear and missile programs.

Washington last year withdrew from a landmark nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers and reimposed crippling sanctions on the Iranian economy.

Five other signatories remain committed to the accord under which Tehran agreed to rein in its nuclear activities in return for an easing of sanctions, but Iran has begun reducing some of its commitments under the agreement.

In announcing the U.S. pullout from the nuclear deal in 2018, U.S. President Donald Trump said the terms were not tough enough to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons and did not address Iran’s missile program.

Tehran says its nuclear program was strictly for civilian energy purposes.

In a televised speech on August 28, Iranian President Hassan Rohani called for unity in order to overcome what he described as an “economic war” imposed on his country by the United States.

Trump earlier this week said he would agree to meet Rohani if “the circumstances were correct or right.”

The Iranian president later responded by saying that, while Iran is open to talks, Washington must first “lift all illegal, unjust, and unfair sanctions imposed on Iran.”

In an interview with RFE/RL on August 27 in the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, U.S. national-security adviser John Bolton said Trump’s willingness to talk to Rohani does not imply that the U.S. president is about to change his tough stance on Iran.

Bolton said Trump has long made it clear “he’ll meet with anybody to talk. He is a negotiator. He is a dealmaker.”

“But talking with them does not imply — for President Trump, [it] does not imply — changing your position,” he added.