Trump Administration Hits Iranian Companies With New Sanctions

The Trump administration announced on Dec. 11 new sanctions against three Iranian entities, including a shipping company and an airline.

The Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines, its China-based subsidiary E-Sail Shipping Company Ltd, and the airline Mahan Air have been linked to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), according to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

The sanctions “should serve as a warning that doing business with” the three entities “risks contributing to Iran’s proliferation-sensitive programs, including its nuclear and missile programs,” Pompeo said in a statement.

He told reporters at a press briefing that the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines “is the shipping line of choice for Iranian proliferators and procurement agents.” Since sanctions were lifted in Jan. 2016, the network “has knowingly engaged in activities and transactions that materially contribute to Iran’s proliferation of WMDs,” according to Pompeo.

The designations for the shipping network and its subsidiary will not be implemented immediately so that exporters of humanitarian goods to Iran can find other shipping methods but the sanctions on Mahan Air and three of its general sales agents based in the United Arab Emirates and Hong Kong is effective immediately.

Mahan Air was designated in Oct. 2011 for providing support to Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps forces. The designation recognized how the airline shipped United Nations-restricted missile and nuclear items to Iran, including controlled graphite, Pompeo said.

Brian Hook (R), U.S. Special Representative for Iran, and Ambassador Nathan Sales (L), State Department Coordinator for Counterterrorism, speak after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the United States will designate Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a Foreign Terrorist Organization during a press conference at the State Department in Washington on April 8, 2019. (Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images)
Ali Fadavi, deputy chief of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), left, speaks to another member of the military during Basij Week in the Iranian capital Tehran on Nov. 24, 2019. (Atta Kenare/AFP via Getty Images)

The Department of Treasury said that several other shipping networks were being sanctioned. One, the Khedri Jahan Darya Co. shipping line, was involved in smuggling lethal aid from Iran to Yemen on behalf of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps and its Qods Force arm, which is involved in paramilitary and espionage operations.

The force, which was designated as a foreign terrorist organization earlier this year, has been using Iranian businessman Abdolhossein Khedri and his companies for years to smuggle weapons, the department said.

“The Iranian regime uses its aviation and shipping industries to supply its regional terrorist and militant groups with weapons, directly contributing to the devastating humanitarian crises in Syria and Yemen,” said Secretary of Treasury Steven Mnuchin in a statement. “Aviation and shipping industries should be vigilant and not allow their industries to be exploited by terrorists.”

While Pompeo celebrated the release of Chinese-American Xiyue Wang, who was freed from an Iranian prison in a prisoner exchange, he warned Americans on Wednesday against traveling to Iran.

“I also want to remind Americans and people of all nationalities about the massive risks associated with travel to Iran. The State Department has previously issued a Level 4 travel advisory for that country. It’s our highest threat level,” he said.

“Americans and particularly dual-national Iranian Americans traveling to Iran face a very high risk of kidnapping, arrest, and detention.”

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Author: Zachary Stieber