WASHINGTON – The Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) acted Wednesday against a vast shipping network that “is directed by and financially supports the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force (IRGC-QF) and its terrorist proxy Hezbollah,” according to a Treasury Department statement.“Over the past year, the IRGC-QF has moved oil worth hundreds of millions of dollars or more through this network for the benefit of the brutal Assad regime, Hezbollah and other illicit actors. Senior IRGC-QF official and former Iranian minister of petroleum Rostam Ghasemi oversees this sprawling network, which features dozens of ship managers, vessels, and facilitators,” the statement said.OFAC also issued a new shipping advisory to the maritime community, “warning of these types of schemes and the sanctions risks associated with blocked persons.” The Department of the Treasury identified more than 25 entities and individuals, as well as 11 vessels, in which blocked persons have an interest.
“Iran continues to take provocative actions to destabilize the region and the world. [The] Treasury’s action against this sprawling petroleum network makes it explicitly clear that those purchasing Iranian oil are directly supporting Iran’s militant and terrorist arm, the IRGC-Quds Force,” said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. “Our actions over the last two weeks should serve as a strong warning to anyone considering facilitating the Quds Force’s oil sales that there will be swift consequences.”“The IRGC Quds Force has been using a shady shipping network to move hundreds of millions of dollars in Iranian oil to the murderous Assad regime, the Iranian proxy terrorist organization Hezbollah, and other illicit actors,” tweeted National Security Advisor John Bolton. “Today, the US took action against this sprawling network.”
US Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook said in a press conference that the US government is intensifying its maximum pressure campaign against the Islamic Republic of Iran. “First, we are announcing a reward of up to $15 million for any person who helps us disrupt the financial operations of Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps and Quds Force,” he said. “It’s the first time that the United States has offered a reward for information that disrupts a government entity’s financial operations. We have taken this step because the IRGC operates more like a terrorist organization than it does a government.”He also mentioned the sanctions against the shipping network and added: “The IRGC has been running an elicit petroleum shipping network over the last several months. This network has moved hundreds of millions of dollars worth of illicit oil. That money is then used to fund terrorism. In recent months, the shipping network used more than a dozen tankers to export nearly 10 million barrels of crude oil largely to Syria to support Assad. These shipments sold for more than half a dollars. “The maritime community should be aware that the Quds Force uses deceptive practices to move its illicit cargo,” he continued. “It cloaks the origin of its oil; it falsifies documents, and it hides the location of its vessels by turning off transponders, which violates international maritime law and is a threat to safety on the high seas. Vessels tied to the shipping network have tried to pass Iranian oil off as Iraqi oil. Countless Iranian vessels have gone dark just before delivering elicit cargo to places like Syria and to China. Deception is the heart of the Quds Force shipping network. Every port operators, shipowner, and management company should steer clear of the targets identified today. The economic and the reputational costs that result from US sanctions are not worth the modest gains of doing business with Iran.”Speaking about the threat for Israel, Hook said that “the IRGC and Quds Force that we sanctioned today is leveraging its foothold in Syria to threaten Israel and its neighbors. And so, Israel has an inherent right of self-defense to take action to prevent imminent attacks against their assets in the region and also to protect their own people. ”Asked about the claims that the “deep state” in the State Department and in the Treasury Department is trying to undermine President Donald Trump’s policy, Hook responded: “I can only speak for the State Department. The president enjoys the full support.”