Amid simmering Middle East tensions, the US and UK have announced new rounds of sanctions against financial and logistic supply networks of Iran’s proxies.
On Monday, the US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated Iraqi airline Fly Baghdad and its CEO, Basheer Abdulkadhim Alwan al-Shabbani, for helping Iran’s Revolutionary Guard’s extraterritorial Qods (Quds) Force (IRGC-QF) and its proxy groups in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon.
The new measures also include designating three leaders and supporters of one of the IRGC-QF’s main militias in Iraq, Kata’ib Hizballah (Kata’ib Hezbollah or KH), as well as a business that moves and launders funds for the group, officially listed as a terrorist organization by Japan, the United Arab Emirates, and the United States.
According to the Treasury, Iraqi airline Fly Baghdad has for years supported the operations of the IRGC-QF and its proxies by delivering materiel and personnel throughout the region. “Fly Baghdad flights have delivered shipments of weapons to Damascus International Airport in Syria for transfer to members of the IRGC-QF and Iran-aligned militia groups on the ground in Syria, including the Syrian Arab Republican Guard, Lebanese Hezbollah, KH, and the KH-affiliated Abu al-Fadl al-Abbas Brigade.”
Fly Baghdad, which has a fleet of eight aircraft including six Boeing 737s, has delivered the groups a range of weapons, including Iranian-made Fateh, Zulfiqar, and al-Fajr series missiles, as well as AK-47s, RPG-7s, and other grenades and machine guns. The airline has also been involved in the transfer of hundreds of Iraqi fighters, including fighters affiliated with the US-designated Iranian proxy militia Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq (AAH), in support of the Iranian proxies’ attacks on Israel on October 7.
Underscoring the ongoing threat the IRGC-QF and its proxy network pose to US personnel and the region, the Treasury said Kata’ib Hizballah has carried out a series of sharply escalating drone and missile attacks against American personnel in Iraq and Syria since Hamas’s attack on Israel on October 7.
Monday’s sanctions came a day after US Central Command announced that multiple ballistic missiles and rockets were launched by Iranian-backed militants in western Iraq targeting al-Assad Airbase, which hosts US troops. “A number of US personnel are undergoing evaluation for traumatic brain injuries,” read the statement by CENTCOM.
“Iran and its proxies have sought to abuse regional economies and use seemingly legitimate businesses as cover for funding and facilitating their attacks,” said Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, Brian E. Nelson. “The United States will continue to disrupt Iran’s illicit activities aimed at undermining the stability of the region.”
Also on Monday, the US, UK and Australia announced new sanctions on key figures in the financial networks of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ). The measure targets networks of Hamas-affiliated financial exchanges in Gaza, their owners, and associates, and particularly financial facilitators that have played key roles in funds transfers, including cryptocurrency transfers, from the IRGC-QF to Hamas and the PIJ.
Britain’s foreign office said the sanctions target Zuheir Shamlakh, a Gaza-based financial facilitator known as Hamas’s “main money changer” and a key figure involved in the group’s shift towards cryptocurrencies who helped transfer large sums of money from Iran to Hamas ahead of the group’s October 7 atrocities which saw at least 1,200 mostly civilians murdered and another 250 taken hostage in Gaza.
“Over the last several years, members of the Shamlakh family have become the main end point for funds transferred from the IRGC-QF to Hamas and PIJ in Gaza,” said the US Treasury.
Zuhair has used his companies Al-Markaziya Li-Siarafa (Al-Markaziya) and Arab China Trading Company to channel funds for the Izz al-Din al Qassam Brigades (al-Qassam Brigades), the military wing of Hamas. Gaza-based financial facilitators Ahmed Shamlakh (Ahmed), Alaa Shamlakh (Alaa), and Imad Shamlakh (Imad), also serve as key players in the financial flow from Iran to Hamas and PIJ.
“Hamas has sought to leverage a variety of financial transfer mechanisms, including the exploitation of cryptocurrency, to channel funds to support the group’s terrorist activities,” Nelson added.
According to the UK’s Foreign Secretary David Cameron, “These sanctions send a clear message to Hamas: the UK and our partners are committed to ensuring there is no hiding place for those financing terrorist activities.”
Source » iranintl