US slaps sanctions on Iranian airline over proliferation

The Trump administration on Wednesday hit Iran with new sanctions that target several transportation firms as it continues its “maximum pressure campaign” against the regime over its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

Washington targeted three general sales agents of Mahan Air over the role the airline has played in weapons of mass destruction proliferation, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters at the State Department.

Also blacklisted was an Iranian shipping network involved in smuggling lethal aid from Iran to Yemen on behalf of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and its elite foreign paramilitary and espionage arm the Quds Force.

“Today’s action against this lethal aid network is yet another example of the US government cutting off all avenues for the delivery of weapons to Houthi rebels,” the Treasury Department said in a statement.

Mahan Air, which is already under US sanctions, has transported fighters and supplies to war-ravaged Syria to support Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, according to the Treasury.

Pompeo said in the briefing that Iran’s weapons of mass destruction programs funnel money away from the Iranian people and increase the regime’s acts of terrorism.

“As long as its maligned behavior continues, so will our maximum pressure,” said Pompeo, in reference to the Trump administration’s “maximum pressure” campaign on Iran.

The Trump administration imposed its “maximum pressure” campaign, increasing targeted sanctions on the Iranian regime, since leaving the Obama-era nuclear deal in 2018.

The sanctions have led to “a complete collapse of Iran’s oil sector,” America’s top Iran advisor Brian Hook told Al Arabiya English in an interview last month. Hook said the sanctions have also collapsed Iran’s petrochemical, industrial metal, and precious metals sectors.

Pompeo said that Hook, along with the State Department, are working on efforts to return Americans detained in Iran and “are very focused on getting every one of these Americans back.”

“We don’t send pallets of cash, send bags of money. We don’t change our policy. You see today we’re still announcing continuation of our maximum pressure campaign. But if we can find an opening to deliver these people back to their families and back to America, we will certainly do that," said Pompeo.

The previous US administration under President Barack Obama secretly delivered $400 million in cash to Tehran on the same day the regime released four American prisoners in 2016. 

At the time, the administration said it had settled a longstanding Iranian claim at the Iran-US Claims Tribunal in The Hague, releasing $400 million in funds frozen since 1981. The funds were part of a trust fund Iran used before its 1979 Islamic Revolution to buy US military equipment that was tied up for decades in litigation at the tribunal.

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Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:56 - GMT 06:56
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