Iran's paramilitary fighting force has been running a multi-million-dollar illicit weapons smuggling program in Iraq, according to new disclosures by the Trump administration, which issued a bevy of sanctions on Wednesday aimed at disrupting the arms network.
The Trump administration Treasury Department announced new sanctions on an Iraq-based arms network being operated by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), Tehran's elite fighting force that recently was designated as a foreign terrorist organization by the U.S.
The arms network "has trafficked hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of weapons to IRGC-[Quds Force]-backed Iraqi militias," according to an announcement by the Treasury Department.
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The disclosure of this arms network comes amid growing tensions between the Trump administration and Tehran over the country's global terror operations and efforts to work with Europe on plots to skirt tough new U.S. economic sanctions. In response to these economic penalties, Iran has boosted its contested nuclear work and sought to arm regional militant groups, such as those operating in Iraq.
"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," Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement announcing the arms network. "The Iraqi financial sector and the broader international financial system must harden their defenses against the continued deceptive tactics emanating from Tehran in order to avoid complicity in the IRGC's ongoing sanctions evasion schemes and other malign activities."
The arms network is directly tied to IRGC Commander Qasem Soleimani, who has led Iran’s terror operations in Syria and elsewhere.
Using a financial conduit called South Wealth Resources Company (SWRC), Iran has funneled scores of weapons to Iraqi militias targeting U.S. and coalition forces in the region.
"SWRC and its two Iraqi associates, who are also being designated today, have covertly facilitated the IRGC-QF’s access to the Iraqi financial system to evade sanctions," the Treasury Department disclosed. "This scheme also served to enrich previously sanctioned Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, an Iraqi advisor to IRGC-QF Commander Qasem Soleimani, who has run weapons smuggling networks and participated in bombings of Western embassies and attempted assassinations in the region."
The Trump administration also designated several individuals tied to the arms network who have help Iran skirt detection, as well as international sanctions of the shipment of illicit arms.
These two Iraqi-based individuals—called Makki Kazim ‘Abd Al Hamid Al Asadi and Muhammed Husayn Salih al-Hasani—also were sanctioned by the administration and will now face international penalties as a result of their efforts to help Tehran proliferate weapons.
"Makki Kazim Al Asadi has acted as an intermediary to facilitate IRGC-QF shipments destined for Iraq, and has helped the IRGC-QF access the Iraqi financial system to evade sanctions," according to information provided by the Treasury Department. "Makki Kazim Al Asadi is being designated pursuant to E.O. 13224 for assisting in, sponsoring, or providing financial, material, or technological support for, or financial or other services to or in support of, the IRGC-QF."
"Muhammed Hussein Salih Al Hasani is the authorized agent and representative of SWRC, which he registered in Iraq in 2013," the Treasury Department said. "He has signed weapons contracts for SWRC."
Meanwhile, Iran continues to boost its construction of advanced weaponry, which also has been shared by Tehran with regional terror groups, including its chief Lebanese proxy, Hezbollah.
This includes a newly installed missile shield and other offensive weapons that could be used to target U.S. forces in the region.