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24 Jan, 2019 17:06

US imposes fresh Iran-related sanctions against Shia militias in Syria, airline companies

US imposes fresh Iran-related sanctions against Shia militias in Syria, airline companies

The US Treasury Department has issued a new batch of sanctions against four entities that it says have ties to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, and airlines that are already on Washington’s black list.

The new ‘Iran-related’ sanctions list published by the Treasury on Thursday contains only one Iranian entity – a cargo airline based in the southern town of Qeshm – Qeshm Fars Air. The company was subjected to US punitive measures over its ties to another Iranian airline, Mahan Air, which was already sanctioned by the US. Armenia-based Flight Travel LLC also landed on  Washington’s list for the same reason.

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Two more entities added to the blacklist are both Shia militias, which are fighting in Syria on the government's side. Known as the Fatemiyoun Brigade and Zainebiyoun Brigade, the groups were formed by Afghan and Pakistani Shiites, and are trained and equipped by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps – a fact that landed them both on the sanctions list.
Apart from that, two aircraft were also put on the blacklist.

Relations between Washington and Tehran have been further strained following President Donald Trump’s decision to unilaterally withdraw from the 2015 international agreement on the Iranian nuclear program, which the US left in May 2018. Following its withdrawal, Washington reinstated all anti-Iranian penalties that were in force before the agreement, and vowed to further impose new restrictions and particularly reduce imports of Iranian oil “to zero.”

Iran has so far stood defiant in the face of US pressure. The Islamic Republic’s leadership blasted the sanctions as unprovoked and illegal under international law, and promised to retaliate. At the same time, Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei said that the restrictions have failed to harm the nation’s economy, and instead allowed it to “flourish.” He called the US establishment “first-class idiots.”

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The US anti-Iranian sanctions drive has affected not only the Islamic Republic but Washington’s allies in Europe, who were put under threat of penalties.To avoid Washington's pressure, some EU countries have been working on ways to ease non-dollar trade with Iran and circumvent US sanctions.

On Wednesday, the head of the Iran-Switzerland Chamber of Commerce said a financial mechanism aimed at keeping trade ties between the two nations is ready for implementation. The Swiss side also confirmed that the two countries are preparing an independent payment channel. The mechanism could also be used to facilitate Iran’s oil transactions with its major Asian crude customers – India, China and South Korea.

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