The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) took action today against a vast network of businesses providing financial support to the Basij Resistance Force (Basij), a paramilitary force subordinate to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). Among other malign activities, the IRGC’s Basij militia recruits, trains, and deploys child soldiers to fight in IRGC-fueled conflicts across the region. This Iran-based network is known as Bonyad Taavon Basij, which is translated as Basij Cooperative Foundation, and is comprised of at least 20 corporations and financial institutions. The Bonyad Taavon Basij employs shell companies and other measures to mask Basij ownership and control over a variety of multibillion-dollar business interests in Iran’s automotive, mining, metals, and banking industries, many of which have significant international dealings across the Middle East and with Europe.

“The Bonyad Taavon Basij network is an example of how the IRGC and Iranian military forces have expanded their economic involvement in major industries, and infiltrated seemingly legitimate businesses to fund terrorism and other malign activities. This vast network provides financial infrastructure to the Basij’s efforts to recruit, train, and indoctrinate child soldiers who are coerced into combat under the IRGC’s direction,” said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. “The international community must understand that business entanglements with the Bonyad Taavon Basij network and IRGC front companies have real world humanitarian consequences. This helps fuel the Iranian regime’s violent ambitions across the Middle East.”

Overview of Today’s Action

Today’s action targets Iran’s Basij Resistance Force for its connection to the IRGC and support to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF), along with Bonyad Taavon Basij and its complex network of intermediary companies and financial institutions, which fund its violent domestic and regional conduct. The entities designated today comprise part of the Basij’s economic conglomerate, and are deeply entrenched in major Iranian industries, such as automotive, mines and metals, tractor manufacturing, and banking. These entities are being designated as Specially Designated Global Terrorists (SDGTs) pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13224, which targets terrorists and those providing support to terrorists or acts of terrorism. The IRGC and its domestic suppression arm, the Basij, use the monies generated from this network to support terrorism along with committing a variety of human rights abuses at home and abroad.

The IRGC-QF was designated pursuant to E.O. 13224 on October 25, 2007. The IRGC-QF’s parent organization, the IRGC, was designated pursuant to E.O. 13224 on October 13, 2017. OFAC is designating the Basij pursuant to E.O. 13224 for being owned or controlled by the IRGC, and for assisting, sponsoring, or providing financial, material, or technological support for, or financial or other services to or in support of, the IRGC-QF. Basij was also designated by OFAC in 2011 pursuant to E.O. 13553 for its involvement in the violent crackdowns and serious human rights abuses occurring in Iran following the June 2009 contested presidential election and for being controlled by the IRGC.

The Basij: Support to IRGC-QF, Including Recruitment and Training of Child Soldiers

The Basij, a paramilitary force formed soon after the 1979 revolution, is one of the Iranian regime’s primary enforcers of internal security. The Basij, which came under the formal authority of the IRGC in 2007, has branches in every province and city in Iran. Its activities include indoctrinating schoolchildren and providing combat training to children as young as 12-years-old.

In addition to its involvement in violent crackdowns and serious human rights abuses in Iran, the Basij recruits and trains fighters for the IRGC-QF, including Iranian children, who then deploy to Syria to support the brutal Assad regime. Since at least early 2015, the Basij has recruited and provided combat training to fighters before placing them on a waiting list for deployment to Syria.

In addition to Iranian nationals, the Basij also recruits Afghan immigrants to Iran, including children as young as 14-years-old, to join the Fatemiyoun Brigade, a militia made up of Afghan fighters under the control of the IRGC-QF in Syria. Some of these Afghan recruits, reportedly coerced to fight on the side of the Assad regime in Syria, choose instead to flee to Europe. The Basij also recruit Pakistani nationals to join the Zainabiyoun Brigade, a militia comprised of Pakistani nationals under the control of the IRGC-QF in Syria.

In addition to committing acts of violence at home and abroad and supporting the IRGC-QF’s involvement in the Syrian civil war, the Basij, through its economic arm, Bonyad Taavon Basij, has increased its involvement in Iran’s major industries such as the metals and minerals, automotive, and banking sectors.

ifmat - New US sanctions against Iran to target recruitment of child soldiers

Source » treasury