US Treasury Designates Vast Network of IRGC-QF Officials and Front Companies in Iraq, Iran

The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has designated 20 Iran- and Iraq-based front companies, senior officials, and business associates that provide support to or act for or on behalf of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF) in addition to transferring lethal aid to Iranian-backed terrorist militias in Iraq such as Kata’ib Hizballah (KH) and Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq (AAH).

Among other malign activities, these entities and individuals perpetrated or supported: smuggling through the Iraqi port of Umm Qasr; money laundering through Iraqi front companies; selling Iranian oil to the Syrian regime; smuggling weapons to Iraq and Yemen; promoting propaganda efforts in Iraq on behalf of the IRGC-QF and its terrorist militias; intimidating Iraqi politicians; and using funds and public donations made to an ostensibly religious institution to supplement IRGC-QF budgets. The terrorist militias supported by the Iranian regime such as KH and AAH have continued to engage in attacks on U.S. and Coalition forces in Iraq.

“Iran employs a web of front companies to fund terrorist groups across the region, siphoning resources away from the Iranian people and prioritizing terrorist proxies over the basic needs of its people,” said Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin. “The United States maintains broad exceptions and authorizations for humanitarian aid including agriculture commodities, food, medicine, and medical devices to help the people of Iran combat the coronavirus.”

Today’s designations were taken pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13224, as amended, which targets terrorists and those providing support to or acting for or on behalf of designated terrorists or supporting acts of terrorism.

RECONSTRUCTION ORGANIZATION OF THE HOLY SHRINES IN IRAQ

The Reconstruction Organization of the Holy Shrines in Iraq (ROHSI) is an IRGC-QF-controlled organization based in Iran and Iraq whose leadership was appointed by the late IRGC-QF Commander Qassem Soleimani. Though ostensibly a religious institution, ROHSI has transferred millions of dollars to the Iraq-based Bahjat al Kawthar Company for Construction and Trading Ltd, also known as Kosar Company, another Iraq-based entity under the IRGC-QF’s control. Kosar Company has served as a base for Iranian intelligence activities in Iraq, including the shipment of weapons and ammunition to Iranian-backed terrorist militia groups.

Additionally, Kosar Company has received millions of dollars in transfers from the Central Bank of Iran, which was designated pursuant to E.O. 13224 in September 2019 for its financial support of the IRGC-QF and Lebanese Hizballah. Both the IRGC-QF and Hizballah have been designated by the U.S. Department of State as Foreign Terrorist Organizations under section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act.

In addition, IRGC-QF officials have used ROHSI’s funds to supplement IRGC-QF budgets, likely embezzling public donations intended for the construction and maintenance of Shiite shrines in Iraq.

ROHSI and Kosar Company are being designated pursuant to E.O. 13224 for being owned, controlled, or directed by, directly or indirectly, the IRGC-QF.

OFAC is also designating Mohammad Jalal Maab, the current head of ROHSI, who was personally appointed to the position by former IRGC-QF Commander Soleimani. Jalal Maab succeeded Hassan Pelarak, an IRGC-QF officer and co-owner of Kosar Company, who was selected by Soleimani to serve as his special assistant on an IRGC-QF-led committee focused on sanctions evasions activity. Pelarak also worked with IRGC-QF officials to transfer missiles, explosives, and small arms to Yemen, intensifying the Yemeni conflict and exacerbating one of the world’s worst humanitarian catastrophes.

Mohammad Jalal Maab is being designated pursuant to E.O. 13224 for being a leader or official of ROHSI. Hassan Pelarak is being designated pursuant to E.O. 13224 for having acted or purported to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, the IRGC-QF.

Alireza Fadakar, another co-owner of Kosar Company, has worked in Iraq on behalf of the IRGC-QF for several years and is an IRGC-QF commander in Najaf, Iraq. Muhammad al-Ghorayfi is an IRGC-QF affiliate and employee of Kosar Company who provides administrative support to Fadakar and has facilitated the travel of IRGC-QF officials between Iraq and Iran.

Alireza Fadakar is being designated pursuant to E.O. 13224 for having acted or purported to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, the IRGC-QF. Muhammad al-Ghorayfi is being designated pursuant to E.O. 13224 for having materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, or technological support for, or goods or services to or in support of, Alireza Fadakar.

Masoud Shoustaripousti, another co-owner of Kosar Company, has worked in Iraq on behalf of the IRGC-QF for several years and has laundered money for the group. Shoushtaripousti worked with Mashallah Bakhtiari, who used Kosar Company to launder money and worked with officials at the Baghdad-based branch of Iran’s Bank Melli to deposit funds for the IRGC-QF in Iraq. OFAC designated Bank Melli in November 2018, pursuant to E.O. 13224, for acting as a conduit for payments to the IRGC-QF which also used Bank Melli to dispense funds to Iranian-backed terrorist groups in Iraq.

Masoud Shoustaripousti is being designated pursuant to E.O. 13224 for having acted or purported to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, the IRGC-QF. Mashallah Bakhtiari is being designated pursuant to E.O. 13224 for having materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, or technological support for, or goods or services to or in support of, the IRGC-QF.

AL KHAMAEL MARITIME SERVICES

Separately, OFAC is taking action against Al Khamael Maritime Services (AKMS), an Iraq-based company operating out of Umm Qasr port in which the IRGC-QF has a financial interest. The IRGC-QF leveraged Shiite militia group contacts to evade Iraqi government inspection protocol at Umm Qasr port and has charged foreign companies and vessels fees for services at its terminal at the port. AKMS also worked to sell Iranian-origin petroleum products in contravention of U.S. sanctions against the Iranian regime.

AKMS is being designated pursuant to E.O. 13224 for being owned, controlled, or directed by, directly or indirectly, the IRGC-QF.

OFAC is also designating Hasan Saburinezhad, also known as Engineer Morteza, who is involved in the finances of AKMS. As a representative of AKMS, Saburinezhad worked to facilitate the entry of Iranian shipments into Iraqi ports for the benefit of the IRGC-QF. Saburinezhad is also involved in IRGC-QF financial and economic activities between Iran, Iraq, and Syria, including smuggling activities along the Syria/Iraq border. Saburinezhad also runs smuggling routes to help Iraqi terrorist group KH and the IRGC-QF smuggle goods into Iraq from Iran, and has assisted KH in funding the acquisition and transfer of goods out of Iran.

Saburinezhad is the Managing Director and a member of the board of directors of Mada’in Novin Traders (MNT), an Iran- and Iraq-based company associated with multiple IRGC-QF officials, including Vali Gholizadeh, who has worked with Saburinezhad for the benefit of both AKMS and MNT.

Hasan Saburinezhad is being designated pursuant to E.O. 13224 for having acted or purported to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, the IRGC-QF. Mada’in Novin Traders is being designated pursuant to E.O. 13224 for being owned, controlled, or directed by, or to have acted or purported to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, Saburinezhad. Gholizadeh is being designated pursuant to E.O. 13224 for being a leader or official of Mada’in Novin Traders.

OFAC is also designating Mohammed Saeed Odhafa Al Behadili, the Managing Director of AKMS, and Ali Hussein Falih Al-Mansoori, also known as Seyyed Rezvan, the company’s deputy managing director and head of its board of directors. Additionally, as of 2018, Al Behadili was focused on facilitating shipments and business transactions to circumvent U.S. sanctions against the Iranian regime. Al-Mansoori has worked with IRGC-QF officials on business issues related to AKMS.

Mohammed Saeed Odhafa Al Behadili is being designated pursuant to E.O. 13224 for having acted or purported to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, AKMS. Ali Hussein Falih Al-Mansoori is being designated pursuant to E.O. 13224 for being a leader or official of AKMS.

Sayyed Reza Musavifar, who is responsible for the accounts and finances of AKMS, has worked with the IRGC-QF to transfer money to terrorist militias, including KH and Lebanese Hizballah. In 2014, Musavifar transferred the equivalent of millions of dollars of foreign currency to senior IRGC-QF officials.

Musavifar is a part owner of Middle East Saman Chemical Company, an Iran-based company that maintained an account at Rashed Exchange, an Iran-based exchange house used to convert currency for the IRGC-QF that was designated in May 2018 for being owned or controlled by Mohammadreza Khedmati, an individual designated for support to the IRGC-QF.

Sayyed Reza Musavifar is being designated pursuant to E.O. 13224 for having materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, or technological support for, or goods or services to or in support of, the IRGC-QF. Middle East Saman Chemical Company is being designated pursuant to E.O. 13224 for being owned, controlled, or directed by, or to have acted or purported to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, Sayyed Reza Musavifar.

Additionally, Ali Farhan Asadi is being designated pursuant to E.O. 13224 for having acted or purported to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, AKMS.

SAYYED YASER MUSAVIR AND MEHDI GHASEMZADEH

IRGC-QF official Sayyed Yaser Musavir has been deployed to Iraq extensively since early 2014 in support of the IRGC-QF, and he has coordinated operations between the group and Iraqi terrorist militia group officials. In 2019, Musavir coordinated with IRGC-QF officials to sell Iranian petroleum products to Syria. In 2018, Musavir coordinated propaganda efforts with AAH on behalf of senior IRGC-QF officials. AAH was designated in January 2020 by the U.S. Department of State as a Foreign Terrorist Organization under section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act and as Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) pursuant to E.O. 13224.

Sayyed Yaser Musavir is being designated pursuant to E.O. 13224 for having acted or purported to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, the IRGC-QF.

Mehdi Ghasemzadeh is an IRGC-QF official and is being designated pursuant to E.O. 13224 for having acted or purported to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, the IRGC-QF.

SHAYKH ‘ADNAN AL-HAMIDAWI

Shaykh ‘Adnan Al-Hamidawi is a Special Operations Commander for KH who in 2019 planned to intimidate Iraqi politicians who did not support the removal of U.S. forces from Iraq. KH, an Iranian-backed terrorist militia group that has been a U.S. Department of State-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization and SDGT since 2009, receives lethal support from the IRGC-QF, and has been responsible for numerous terrorist acts against Iraqi, U.S., and Coalition forces in Iraq for over a decade, including bombings, rocket attacks, and sniper operations.

Shaykh ‘Adnan Al-Hamidawi is being designated pursuant to E.O. 13224 for having acted or purported to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, KH.

SANCTIONS IMPLICATIONS

As a result of today’s action, all property and interests in property of these persons that are in or come within 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 (or transiting) the United States that involve and property or interests in property of blocked persons.

In addition, persons that engage in certain transactions with the persons designated today may themselves be exposed to sanctions. Furthermore, any foreign financial institution that knowingly conducted or facilitated any significant transaction on behalf of individuals and entities designated today could be subject to U.S. correspondent account or payable-through account sanctions.

Identifying information on the entities designated.

(Source: OFAC)

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

US provides Aid to help Iraq fight Coronavirus

The US Embassy in Baghdad announced today that is providing $670,000 to help Iraq fight the novel coronavirus pandemic.

“Today’s announcement shows the strength of the US and Iraqi partnership, and we are committed to fighting this pandemic alongside the Iraqi people,” said US Ambassador to Iraq Matthew Tueller. “Support provided through the [World Health Organization] will directly enhance the country’s ability to combat the spread of COVID-19.”

Click here to read the full article.

Due to a combination of security conditions and restricted travel options as a result of the global COVID-19 pandemic, the US State Department has ordered the departure of designated U.S. Government employees at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, the Baghdad Diplomatic Support Center, and the U.S. Consulate General in Erbil.

Visa services at both posts remain suspended.  The U.S. government has limited ability to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens in Iraq.

Please note that the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad is not providing public services.  U.S. citizens in the Iraqi Kurdistan Region who need emergency services can contact ErbilACS@state.gov.  U.S. citizens elsewhere in Iraq should contact BaghdadACS@state.govfor emergency assistance.

If you are a U.S. citizen in Iraq on a temporary visit and desire assistance to return to the United States when a flight is available, please contact ErbilACS@state.gov or BaghdadACS@state.gov.

Actions to Take:

  • Depart Iraq by commercial transportation as soon as possible
  • Monitor local media for updates
  • Review personal security plans
  • Remain aware of surroundings
  • Review the complete Travel Advisory for Iraq
  • Visit our website for Travel to High-Risk Areas

Assistance:

  • American Citizen Services Unit, U.S. Embassy Baghdad (public access suspended) or U.S. Consulate Erbil – 413 Ishtar, Ankawa, Erbil, Iraq

(Source: US Embassy)

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

Coronavirus forces partial US troop drawdown in Iraq

The US-led global coalition to defeat the Islamic State announced today that the coronavirus pandemic has forced “temporary adjustments” in the mission against the terrorist group.

“The unprecedented challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic to the Iraqi and Syrian people, and to our mission, led to temporary adjustments to protect the force during this period, in full coordination with the Iraqi authorities,” the coalition said in a joint statement today released by the US State Department.

Click here to read the full article.

By Sara Allawi and Michael O’Hanlon for USA Today. Any opinions expressed are those of the author(s), and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

The relationship between Iraq and the U.S. is in danger of collapse. That can’t happen.

Do the United States and Iraq, joined at the hip in tragic and mistake-prone war for most of the past 17 years, have a future together?

As Iraq seeks to form a new government, its parliament is on record recommending that U.S. forces be expelled in the aftermath of the early January killing of Iranian terror mastermind Qassam Soleimani.

Those tensions could again be inflamed by the Amerian and allied retaliation, early on March 13, for recent rocket barrages against foreign forces in Iraq by Iranian-backed militias that killed two Americans and a Brit. Over the following weekend, another round of barrages occurred, with the potential for yet more American retaliation.

The partnership appears to be in peril.

Click here to read the full story.

By John Lee.

The U.S. Army has awarded Navistar Defense foreign military sales contract delivery orders valued at $21.97 million for 134 Medium Tactical Vehicles (MTV).

The orders are comprised of 4×4 cargo vehicles, 6×6 general transport trucks (GTT), 6×6 GTT vehicles with material handling equipment (MHE), and 6×6 30-ton wreckers, along with spare parts and technical data.

Ted Wright, chief executive officer, said:

“Navistar Defense is proud to deliver additional Medium Tactical Vehicles to Iraqi security forces. Providing vehicles to allied forces is an important part of our strategy to grow our business. Since 2004, we’ve delivered more than 7,000 military vehicles to the Iraqi Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Defense. This versatile and cost-effective platform, which shares commonality with their existing fleet, will support a variety of mission requirements.”

Most of the production will take place at Navistar Defense’s assembly plant located in West Point, Mississippi.

(Source: Navistar)

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.

Has war between Iran and US already started in Iraq?

The United States launched airstrikes on several military bases of the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) in southern Iraq early Friday.

The strikes mark an escalation in tensions between the United States and Iran on Iraqi territory, putting Iraq at risk of becoming a site of war between the countries’ proxies.

Click here to read the full story.

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

Fears Mount as Trump Administration Guts USAID’s Iraq Presence

The United States’ top aid agency is dismantling its presence in Iraq, leaving a skeleton crew ill-equipped to oversee over $1 billion in aid programs aimed in part at staving off the return of terrorist organizations such as the Islamic State, officials and lawmakers say.

An internal U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) document obtained by Foreign Policy confirms that major cuts in staffing were made late last year and highlights the stark difference between the agency’s footprint in Iraq and other countries that receive foreign aid funding: In fiscal 2019, Egypt received roughly one-fifth the amount of U.S. foreign aid as Iraq, but it has more than seven times the number of staff to oversee it.

Click here to read the full story (subscription required).

The U.S. Mission in Iraq Announces the 2021-2023 Fulbright Foreign Student Program

The United States Embassy is pleased to announce that we are now accepting applications for the 2021-2023 Fulbright Foreign Student Program.

This prestigious and competitive scholarship program provides outstanding students and professionals with the opportunity to obtain Master’s degrees at U.S. universities. Launched in 1946 by the U.S. Congress and the late U.S. Senator William J. Fulbright, the Fulbright Program seeks to develop future leaders through educational exchange as well as promote international peace and understanding.

The Fulbright scholarship will fund up to two years of study at the Master’s degree level at a U.S. university starting in the fall of 2021.

All disciplines and academic fields of study are available under this program, with the exception of medicine and other clinical studies.  To be eligible, applicants from Iraq must:

a) possess a bachelor degree from an accredited higher-education institution,

b) demonstrate a mastery of English, and

c) have a minimum of two years of work experience.

For more information regarding eligibility requirements and application procedures, prospective applicants can visit the U.S. Embassy website:  https://iq.usembassy.gov/education-culture/exchange-programs/fulbright-foreign-student-program/ .

Eligible Iraqis with an outstanding academic record  may apply at https://apply.iie.org/ffsp2021.  The U.S. Embassy welcomes applications from men and women from all parts of Iraq.

The deadline for submitting applications is May 1, 2020.

(Source: United States Embassy)