By John Lee.

The United States has imposed sanctions on an Iraqi company, South Wealth Resources Company (SWRC), which it is says is an Iraq-based affiliate of Iran‘s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

The full text of the Treasury Department’s statement is shown below:

Today [Wednesday 13th June], the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) imposed sanctions on an Iraq-based Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF) financial conduit, South Wealth Resources Company (SWRC), which has trafficked hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of weapons to IRGC-QF-backed Iraqi militias.

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.  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.

SWRC and its two associates 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.

“Treasury is taking action to shut down Iranian weapons smuggling networks that have been used to arm regional proxies of the IRGC Qods Force in Iraq, while personally enriching regime insiders,” said Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin. “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 IRGC-QF, designated pursuant to E.O. 13224 on October 25, 2007, is a branch of the IRGC responsible for external operations and has provided material support to numerous terrorist groups, including the Taliban, Lebanese Hizballah, HAMAS, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, making it a key component of Iran’s destabilizing regional activities.  The IRGC-QF’s parent organization, the IRGC, was designated pursuant to E.O. 13224 on October 13, 2017, and on April 15, 2019 was designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization by the Secretary of State.

South Wealth Resources Company

The IRGC-QF has used Iraq-based SWRC, also known as Manabea Tharwat al-Janoob General Trading Company, as a front to smuggle hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of weapons to its proxies inside Iraq, while also generating profit in the form of commission payments for Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, an OFAC-sanctioned advisor to IRGC-QF commander Qasem Soleimani, and two associates of SWRC who are also being designated today.  In addition to facilitating the IRGC-QF’s weapons smuggling into Iraq, SWRC has moved millions of dollars to Iraq for illicit financial activity benefitting the IRGC-QF and its Iraq-based militia groups.

SWRC is being designated today 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.

Makki Kazim ‘Abd Al Hamid Al Asadi and Muhammed Hussein Salih Al Hasani

OFAC also is designating Makki Kazim ‘Abd Al Hamid Al Asadi (Makki Kazim Al Asadi) and Muhammed Husayn Salih al-Hasani (al-Hasani), two Iraq-based individuals who helped facilitate IRGC-QF shipments and financial operations via SWRC.  Both individuals and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis received commission payments for contracts with SWRC.

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.  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.  He has signed weapons contracts for SWRC.

Al Hasani is being designated pursuant to E.O. 13224 for acting for or on behalf of SWRC.

Sanctions Implications

As a result of today’s action, all property and interests in property of these targets that are in the United States or in the possession or control of U.S. persons must be blocked and reported to OFAC.  OFAC’s regulations generally prohibit all dealings by U.S. persons or within the United States (including transactions transiting the United States) that involve any property or interests in property of blocked or designated persons.

In addition, persons that engage in certain transactions with the individuals and entities designated today may themselves be exposed to sanctions or subject to an enforcement action.  Furthermore, unless an exception applies, any foreign financial institution that knowingly facilitates a significant transactions for any of the individuals or entities designated today could be subject to U.S. sanctions.

View identifying information related to today’s action.

(Source: US Treasury Dept)

By Aaron Majid, for Foreign Policy. Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

These days, Tehran is having trouble getting what it wants from its neighbor—a development Washington can encourage by backing off.

It almost goes without saying these days that Iran dominates its western neighbor. On April 27, for example, Bahraini Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed tweeted that Iran’s regime “controls” Iraq.

Now-U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton once compared Tehran’s grip on Iraq to the Soviet Union’s stranglehold over Eastern Europe during the late 1940s.

Click here to read the full story.

By Joe Macaron for Al Monitor. Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Will the Trump administration abort Iran’s land bridge to the Mediterranean?

As the showdown between Washington and Tehran escalates elsewhere in the Gulf, Iran is giving high priority to an effort to secure, control and reopen the al-Bukamal border crossing at Qaim, the only Syrian-Iraqi border crossing under Iranian control, to solidify its influence in the Levant and mitigate the impact of US sanctions.

It remains to be seen, however, whether Iran will pull off this move and how the Donald Trump administration might react.

Click here to read the full story.

By John Lee.

The Trump administration has reportedly granted Iraq a further 90-day extension to the waiver exempting it from US sanctions on Iran.

CNBC quotes a senior State Department official as saying on condition of anonymity:

“While this waiver is intended to help Iraq mitigate energy shortages, we continue to discuss our Iran-related sanctions with our partners in Iraq.”

According to some energy analysts, without continued sanctions exemptions, Iraq could lose more than a third of its power overnight.

More here.

(Source: CNBC)

From The Economist.

America is trying to get more out of its relationship with Iraq

US President Donald Trump thinks America is being ripped off. “We have spent $7trn—trillion with a T—$7trn in the Middle East,” he told a crowd last year, exaggerating slightly. “You know what we have for it? Nothing. Nothing.”

To right this perceived wrong, Mr Trump has long favoured seizing Iraq’s oil. But after he hinted at the idea with the Iraqi prime minister (who demurred), his aides admonished him. “We can’t do this and you shouldn’t talk about it,” said H.R. McMaster, the national security adviser at the time, according to reports. Still, Mr Trump may be getting what he wants from Iraq in other ways.

When America reimposed sanctions on Iran last year it gave some countries extra time to stop buying Iranian oil before they would lose access to the American market. Most were given 90-day exemptions. In November Iraq, which shares a long border with Iran, was given half that time to cut off electricity and gas imports.

As it negotiated for extensions, American companies made a push for Iraqi contracts. In December, Rick Perry, the energy secretary, led America’s largest trade delegation to Iraq in over a decade. “It was a quid pro quo,” says an oilman. “You give us priority and we’ll give you an exemption.”

Read the full article here (subscription needed).

Ambassador James Jeffrey Assumes Role of Special Envoy to the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS

Ambassador James Jeffrey (pictured), the current Special Representative for Syria Engagement, has taken on the additional role of the Special Envoy to the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, effective January 4, 2019.

With this additional responsibility, Ambassador Jeffrey will lead and coordinate U.S. Department of State relations with the Global Coalition to defeat ISIS and Department efforts to implement President Trump’s announcement of a responsible U.S. troop withdrawal from Syria that is coordinated with our global Allies and partners consistent with U.S. goals for Syria and Iraq, including the enduring defeat of ISIS.

He takes over from Brett McGurk, who resigned following disagreements with President Donald Trump’s strategy on Syria.

Jeffrey has previously served as US Ambassador to Iraq.

(Sources: US State Department, Washington Free Beacon)

From AFP. Any opinions expressed are those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Trump declares end to US ‘policeman’ role in surprise Iraq visit

President Donald Trump uses a lightning visit to Iraq – his first with US troops in a conflict zone since being elected – to defend the withdrawal from Syria and declare an end to America’s role as the global “policeman.”

View on YouTube

By Ali Mamouri for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

With rising US pressure, Iran worries about losing ground in Iraq

Iraqi President Barham Salih met with Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Ali Khamenei Nov. 17 in Tehran, where Khamenei underlined that Iraq must retain its Popular Mobilization Units (PMU). Khamenei stated that the PMU were among Iraq’s major achievements in the past few years.

Khamenei has reiterated this stance in previous meetings with Iraqi officials, including former Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, which shows how important this matter is for Iran.

Meanwhile, the Donald Trump administration has insisted on the disarmament and disbanding of pro-Iran military factions in Iraq as part of the 12 conditions that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo proposed to sign a new agreement with Iran instead of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which the United States exited this year.

Click here to read the full story.

By John Lee.

Germany’s Siemens may have to share a $15-billion contract to supply power-generation equipment to Iraq with US rival General Electric (GE).

The Financial Times reports that although it appeared that Siemens would win the deal, the Trump administration successfully intervened on behalf of GE.

Last month German business newspaper Handelsblatt reported that Chancellor Angela Merkel had personally intervened with Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to persuade the Iraqi Government to award the contract to Siemens.

(Source: Financial Times)

By Fazel Hawramy for Al Monitor. Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

IRGC masses troops on Iraq border amid rising tensions with Kurdish groups

Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) is launching increasingly daring operations to degrade the capabilities of armed Kurdish opposition groups.

In its latest move, it has deployed thousands of troops to difficult mountain ranges in the western part of the country used as safe havens by the groups for decades.

The IRGC’s operations have taken on an air of urgency since US President Donald Trump’s May 8 announcement that he was withdrawing the United States from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers, and re-imposing sanctions against Iran.

Click here to read the full story.