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US sanctions Iranian-Iraqi businessman who 'helped Iran smuggle weapons to Yemen'

Iran has been accused of smuggling weapons to the Houthi rebels in Yemen [Getty]

Date of publication: 2 May, 2020

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The United States on Friday confirmed it had imposed sanctions on an Iranian-Iraqi businessman for his alleged involvement with the Iranian elite Quds Force.

An Iranian-Iraqi businessman was blacklisted and received US sanctions on Friday over his alleged involvement to illegally generate revenue and smuggle weapons abroad, as part of efforts by Iran’s elite Quds Force, the US Treasury Department said.

Amir Dianat was accused of allegedly helping the Quds Force smuggle weapons for years, including sending missiles and shipments from the Islamic Republic to Yemen, where Iran’s Houthi rebel allies are engaged in a deadly conflict against the Saudi-backed government, the department claimed.

Iran has long-insisted on denying claims it is supporting the rebels in Yemen with weapons.

The sanctions target any US-held assets of Dianat or his company Taif Mining Services, which the US Treasury Department alleged was a front company for the Quds Force, Reuters reported.

Americans have also been barred from dealing with Dianat and his company.  

“The Iranian regime and its supporters continue to prioritise the funding of international terrorist organisations over the health and well-being of the Iranian people,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in the statement.

Criminal charges were also filed against the Iranian-Iraqi businessman and his associate, Iranian Kamran Lajmiri, over sanctions violations and money laundering laws.

The US Department of Justice also confirmed $12 million is subject to forfeiture as funds involved in the crimes and as assets of a foreign terrorist organisation, the largest such move against Quds Force-related funds.

The complaint claims both Dianat and his associate had conspired to purchase a petroleum tanker in 2019, in a scheme that allegedly involved the National Iranian Oil Company, the National Iranian Tanker Company and the Quds Force, all of which are blacklisted by the US.

Dianat and Lajmiri would face a maximum of 20 years imprisonment if convicted.

“These defendants purchased a crude oil tanker valued at over $10 million by illegally using the US financial system, defiantly violating US sanctions,” Assistant Attorney General for National Security John Demers said in the statement.

Iran and the United States have been at loggerheads for decades.

Tensions between them have escalated since 2018 when Trump unilaterally withdrew the US from a multinational accord that froze Iran's nuclear programme and reimposed crippling sanctions on its economy.

The arch enemies have appeared to come close to a direct military confrontation twice since June last year, when Iran shot down a US drone in the Gulf.

On that occasion, Trump cancelled retaliatory air strikes at the last minute.

Trump also opted not to take any military action in January after Iran fired a barrage of missiles at US troops stationed in Iraq.

Iran launched the missiles after a US drone strike near Baghdad airport killed Qasem Soleimani, the general who headed the Revolutionary Guards' foreign operations arm, the Quds Force.

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