US sanctions Iran’s envoy to Houthis, Iranian university recruiting foreign fighters

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The US announced sanctions on Iran’s envoy to the Houthis Hasan Irlu on Tuesday, as well as an Iranian university that uses over 50 foreign branches to recruit fighters for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

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Irlu, a member of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)’s overseas arm the Quds Force, recently arrived in Yemen to serve as the IRGC liaison to the Houthi militia, according to the US State Department.

“By dispatching Irlu to Yemen, the IRGC-QF is signaling its intent to increase support to the Houthis and further complicate international efforts to reach a negotiated settlement to the conflict,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement.

Irlu had a relationship with slain IRGC-QF commander Qassem Soleimani and has provided training to Lebanese Hezbollah members, according to the State Department.

Iran’s Al-Mustafa International University was also sanctioned “for facilitating IRGC-QF recruitment efforts” including recruitment for foreign militias that support al-Assad.

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Multiple students at the university, which has over 50 branches around the world, have died fighting in Syria, according to the State Department.

The IRGC “has recruited Pakistani and Afghan students at Al-Mustafa International University to join the Zaynabiyoun Brigade and Fatemiyoun Division, two militias fighting on behalf of the IRGC-QF in Syria that were previously designated under counterterrorism and human rights authorities,” according to the State Department.

IRGC-QF’s recruitment of foreign students “illustrates the degree to which the group has infiltrated Iranian society in order to achieve its destructive goals,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.

“These efforts, and the pervasive role the IRGC-QF plays in Iranian foreign policy, contribute to the erosion of trust in Iran’s public and private institutions,” Mnuchin added.

The US Treasury also designated another official in the IRGC-Quds Force, Iran-based Pakistani national Yusuf Ali Muraj, for supporting IRGC operations.

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