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Kuwait, US, Gulf sanction Hezbollah-Iran network

Pointing to Iraq, Lebanon, Khamenei recalls how Iran put down unrest

KUWAIT/WASHINGTON: The United States and six Gulf allies including Kuwait announced sanctions yesterday on 25 entities associated with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and Lebanon’s Hezbollah, in a move to tighten controls on both group’s finances. The sanctions were set by Riyadh-based Terrorist Financing Targeting Center (TFTC), a two-year-old group that includes Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates in addition to the United States.

Kuwait’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement yesterday that the enlistment came as part of Kuwait’s efforts to combat terrorism and dry up its resources. The decision in this respect was taken by the ministry’s commission “for implementing relevant Security Council resolutions under the UN Chapter VII concerning the combat of terrorism and barring proliferation of weapons of mass destruction”. Necessary measures will be taken in line with Kuwait’s constitution, its laws and local regulations through the competent authority of the state, in implementation of Security Council resolution 1373/2991 issued under Chapter VII of the UN charter.

They targeted companies supporting the Basij Resistance Force, a subordinate group of the Revolutionary Guard, that the US Treasury Department said are used “to oppress domestic opposition with brutal displays of violence” and supply fighters to regional conflicts. Among the 25 are Iranian Bank Mellat and mining, manufacturing and investment firms that allegedly support the Basij. Four of those listed were individuals running Hezbollah’s operations in Iraq, the Treasury said. All 25 have previously been named in US Treasury sanctions announced in 2018.

“The TFTC’s coordinated disruption of the financial networks used by the Iranian regime to fund terrorism is a powerful demonstration of Gulf unity,” said US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in a statement. “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,” said Mnuchin, who addressed a business forum in Riyadh yesterday.

Earlier this month, Financial Action Task Force (FATF) – the international body that sets standards on combating terrorist financing – said it had given Iran the final deadline of Feb 2020 to comply with international norms, after which it would urge members to apply counter-measures. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo yesterday welcomed the move by Paris-based FATF, saying in a statement that the Revolutionary Guard “continues to engage in large-scale, illicit, financing schemes to fund its malign activities”.

In a related development, Iran’s supreme leader yesterday accused the United States and Saudi Arabia of stoking unrest in Lebanon and Iraq, saying Tehran understood the situation in those countries because it had had to suppress similar foreign interference at home. “The US and Western intelligence services, with the financial backing of reactionary countries in the region, are spreading turmoil,” Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was quoted by his official website as telling graduating army cadets.
Khamenei urged protesters to seek changes in a lawful way in Iraq and Lebanon, where Iran has powerful allies among Shiite government factions. “The enemy wants to disrupt the legal framework. When in a country there is no legal framework and a vacuum is created, no positive action can be taken,” he added.

The Americans and Western intelligence services “backed by the money of some reactionary countries in the region are causing turmoil… to destroy security”, he said. “I seize this opportunity to tell those who care about Iraq and Lebanon to remedy insecurity as their priority,” Khamenei said, without elaborating. “The biggest damage that enemies can inflict on a country is to deprive that country of security.”

In an apparent warning, Khamenei praised Iran’s crackdown against street protests at home in 2018. “They (US and Saudi Arabia) had similar plans for our dear country, but fortunately the people… came out in time and the armed forces were ready and that plot was neutralized,” Khamenei said, in a reference to the protests which were put down by security forces while authorities held pro-government rallies.

Iran’s weeks-long unrest in 2017-2018 began as protests about economic hardship and corruption but grew into political rallies, some of which criticized Khamenei by name. They were the boldest challenge to Iran’s leadership since 2009, when security forces crushed a pro-reform uprising and killed dozens of protesters.

“Our advice has always been to call for peace and (stopping) interference by foreign forces in these countries (Iraq and Lebanon),” President Hassan Rouhani’s chief of staff Mahmoud Vaezi was quoted as saying earlier by state media. The United States, Saudi Arabia and Israel were riding a wave of popular demands and providing those forces with financial support, he added. – Agencies

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