US sanctions Iraqi company accused of IRGC ties, funnelling weapons to militias
The United States has sanctioned an Iraqi company it says has ties to Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp (IRGC) and allegedly helped smuggle weapons to Iraq-based militias.
The US Treasury Department sanctioned the South Wealth Resources Company (SWRC) and two of the company's associates on Wednesday.
The SWRC has ties to the IRGC's Quds Force, the department said in a statement, and "has trafficked hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of weapons to IRGC-QF-backed Iraqi militias".
The "treasury is taking action to shut down Iranian weapons smuggling networks that have been used to arm regional proxies of the IRGC Quds Force in Iraq, while personally enriching regime insiders," said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.
In April, the US designated the IRGC as a terrorist organisation, marking the first time Washington has affixed the label to another country's military.
The move came as the Trump administration ratcheted up its "maximum pressure" campaign against Tehran, reimposing economic sanctions on several key sectors of the country's economy and withdrawing from a multilateral 2015 Iran nuclear deal.
Just last week, the US imposed sanctions on Persian Gulf Petrochemical Industries Company, "Iran's largest and most profitable petrochemical holding group".
The Treasury Department said the decision was ordered because the company provides financial support to Khatam al-Anbiya Construction Headquarters, the IRGC's engineering conglomerate.
The sanctions are the latest in a series of measures meant to heap pressure on the Iranian government amid an increase in tensions with Washington.
Last month, US officials accused Tehran of planning to attack American forces and interests in the Middle East.
While Iran rejected the allegation, the Trump administration sent a US naval strike group to the Gulf as a show of strength that aimed to send a "clear and unmistakable message to the Iranian regime".
Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif warned on Monday that those waging "economic war" against Tehran through US sanctions could not expect to "remain safe".
"One cannot expect an economic war to continue against the Iranian people and that those waging this war and those supporting it remain safe," he said.
Zarif added that the only way to decrease ongoing tensions between Iran and the US "is to stop the economic war".