US sanctions Iranian-Russian network over oil shipments to Syria

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The United States said on Tuesday it had moved to disrupt an Iranian-Russian network that sent millions of barrels of oil to Syria and hundreds of millions of dollars to indirectly fund militant groups Hamas and Hezbollah.

The complicated arrangement, described by the US Treasury in a statement, involved a Russia-based company run by a Syrian citizen that shipped Iranian oil to Syria with the aid of a Russian state-owned company.

Syria then helped transfer hundreds of millions of dollars in cash to Hezbollah, which functions as a political party that is part of the Lebanese government and as a militia, as well as to Hamas, the Palestinian group that rules the Gaza Strip.

US officials said Russia facilitated the delivery of oil from Iran to Syria, and that a variety of mechanisms were used in an attempt to conceal the shipments and oil-related payments.

The alleged arrangement shows how Russia has sought to undercut US policy toward Syria, where Washington and Moscow back opposite sides of a civil war that began in 2011, as well as toward Iran, which the United States is seeking to isolate because of its nuclear and missile programs and support for militant proxies.

The United States Treasury, State Department and coast guard have issued an advisory on 'significant sanctions risks' involving petroleum shipments to Syria and sanctioned six individuals and three institutions of an international network through which the Iranian regime, working with Russian companies, provided millions of barrels of oil to the Syrian government.

The Assad regime, in turn, facilitated the movement of hundreds of millions of dollars to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF) for onward transfer to Hamas and Hezbollah.

The US sanctions prohibit material support to the Government of Syria, including shipments of oil to Syrian government-controlled ports, as well as material support to designated terrorist groups.

“Today we are acting against a complex scheme Iran and Russia have used to bolster the Assad regime and generate funds for Iranian malign activity,” said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

“Central Bank of Iran officials continue to exploit the international financial system, and in this case even used a company whose name suggests a trade in humanitarian goods as a tool to facilitate financial transfers supporting this oil scheme. We are issuing an Advisory today identifying the grave risks to the maritime community if they participate in shipping oil to the Government of Syria. The United States is committed to imposing a financial toll on Iran, Russia, and others for their efforts to solidify Assad’s authoritarian rule, as well as disrupt the Iranian regime’s funding of terrorist organizations.”

Today’s designations target critical actors in this scheme, including Syrian national Mohammad Amer Alchwiki (Alchwiki) and his Russia-based company, Global Vision Group.

Alchwiki and his company are central to (1) the delivery of oil from Iran to Syria, and (2) the transfer of funds to the IRGC-QF’s lethal proxies. Today’s designations also highlight the important role that Central Bank of Iran (CBI) officials play in facilitating this scheme.

Throughout the Syrian Civil War, the Iranian regime has continued to provide military and financial support to the Assad regime, enabling it to commit mass atrocities against the Syrian people. The Iranian regime also continues to fund terrorism, providing hundreds of millions of dollars to its regional proxies and US-designated terrorist organizations, Hamas, and Lebanese Hezbollah further destabilizing the region. All the while, Iranian citizens suffer from their government’s neglect and corruption, including through a lack of stable food and water supplies, electricity, and other essential needs.

“The Iranian regime continues to prioritize spending money on fomenting terror over supporting its own people,” said Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, Sigal Mandelker.

“This is yet another example of the regime using the proceeds of millions of barrels of its oil to fund terrorists and the murderous Assad regime to the detriment of its own people. The United States will aggressively seek to impose sanctions against any party involved in shipping oil to Syria, or seeking to evade our sanctions on Iranian oil. Shipping companies, insurers, vessel owners, managers, and operators should all be aware of the grave consequences of engaging in sanctionable conduct involving Iranian oil shipments.”

US sanctions prohibit material support to the Assad regime and US-designated terrorist groups, including the IRGC-QF, Hamas, and Hezbollah. All assets subject to US jurisdiction of the individuals and entities added to the Specially Designated Nationals List (SDN List), and of any other entities blocked by operation of law as a result of their ownership by a sanctioned party, are frozen, and US persons are generally prohibited from dealings with them.

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