October 30, 2019

Gulf Countries Sanction Iranian, Hizballah-Linked Networks

By Samuel Rubenfeld

Seven Gulf countries that are members of the Terrorist Financing Targeting Center (TFTC) announced Wednesday they jointly sanctioned 25 targets affiliated with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and Hizballah.

All of the parties sanctioned by the TFTC were previously designated by the U.S. Treasury Department. The TFTC, created in 2017, deepened collaborative efforts between the U.S. and its Gulf partners against terrorism financing. The TFTC designations, the largest ever coordinated by the body, according to the Treasury, coincided with a trip by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to an investment forum in Saudi Arabia.

“The TFTC’s coordinated disruption of the financial networks used by the Iranian regime to fund terrorism is a powerful demonstration of Gulf unity,” Mnuchin said. “This action demonstrates the unified position of the Gulf nations and the United States that Iran will not be allowed to escalate its malign activity in the region.”

Twenty-one of the TFTC-sanctioned parties comprise a network of businesses known as Bonyad Taavon Basij, which provides financial support to the Basij Resistance Force, a paramilitary force subordinate to the IRGC. The U.S. sanctioned the Bonyad network in October 2018. 

The Bonyad network uses shell companies and other measures to mask Basij ownership and control over companies in Iran’s automotive, mining, metals and banking industries, many of which have significant dealings across the Middle East and Europe, according to the U.S. Treasury. Though most of the Bonyad network’s holdings are in Iran, several of its subsidiaries and branches are based abroad, including the U.K., Turkey, Armenia, Kazakhstan and South Korea, Kharon found in November 2018. Dozens of firms and financial institutions in Iran, Western Europe, the Middle East and Asia have engaged in commercial relationships with the Bonyad network, its designated affiliates or their majority-owned holdings, Kharon found.

The other four TFTC-designated parties are Hizballah-affiliated individuals who lead and coordinate the group’s operational, financial and intelligence activities in Iraq, the Treasury said. They were sanctioned by the U.S. in November 2018.

The TFTC designations come a day after Human Rights Watch said in a report that U.S. sanctions on Iran have “drastically constrained” the ability for Iran to finance humanitarian imports, including medicine, threatening the health of Iranians. The U.S. restrictions on financing Iran-related trade have forced Iranian pharmaceutical companies to turn to the hawala system to route transactions that are authorized under U.S. law, Human Rights Watch said. 

Saudi Arabia sanctioned an additional three parties, according to the Arabic-language TFTC statement, all of whom were previously designated by the U.S.

Analysts from the Counterterrorism/Middle East team contributed to this report.


Kharon research

Log in for access to the latest updates and analysis on networks targeted by sanctions and sanctions-related risk. Don’t have an account? Click REQUEST AN ACCOUNT to receive information on how to get signed up.

Request an account or Log in