The United States Treasury forced endorses on Tuesday on Valiollah Seif, the legislative head of the Central Bank of Iran. It blamed him for helping the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps in exchanging a great many dollars to Lebanon’s “Hezbollah” gathering.
In the second move in a week taking aim at the money networks of the Revolutionary Guards, or IRGC, the US Treasury also blacklisted another senior official, Ali Tarzali, who works in the central bank’s international division. It also targeted Iraq’s Al-Bilad Islamic Bank and its top two executives, and a liaison between IRGC and “Hezbollah”, which Washington has designated an international terrorist group.
The Treasury said Seif covertly moved “hundreds of millions of dollars” to “Hezbollah” from the IRGC via Al-Bilad Islamic Bank.
The exact ramifications of the sanctions for Iran’s economy were not immediately clear. The US said that the sanctions on Seif did not extend to Iran’s central bank itself. Still, the US said it was imposing “secondary sanctions” on the Iranian bank officials, which could significantly increase Iran’s isolation from the global financial system.
Typically, when the US punishes individuals with sanctions, it prohibits Americans or US companies from doing business with them. Secondary sanctions also apply to non-Americans and non-US companies. That means that anyone, in any country, who does business with Seif or Tarzali could themselves be punished with sanctions, cutting them off from the US financial system.
“The United States will not permit Iran’s increasingly brazen abuse of the international financial system,” said US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.
“The global community must remain vigilant against Iran’s deceptive efforts to provide financial support to its terrorist proxies.”
The Treasury said that Seif undermined the central bank’s credibility by routing millions of dollars from the Quds Force, the expeditionary unit of Iran’s hardline Revolutionary Guards, to al-Bilad Islamic Bank. Those funds were then used to “enrich and support the violent and radical agenda of ‘Hezbollah’,” Treasury said.
Al-Bilad Islamic Bank and its CEO and chairman, Aras Habib, were also hit with US sanctions, as was Muhammad Qasir, who the Treasury said is a “Hezbollah” official who has been a “critical conduit” for transferring funds to “Hezbollah” from the Revolutionary Guards.
Tuesday’s action seeks to cut off what the US called a “critical” banking network for Iran and deny those blacklisted access to the global financial system.
On Thursday, the Treasury announced sanctions against a “large scale” currency exchange network serving the Revolutionary Guards, hitting six individuals and three companies at the center of the network.
At the time, the US singled out the Central Bank of Iran as “complicit” in the operation, foreshadowing Tuesday’s action.
The move against Seif came one week after President Donald Trump withdrew from the Iran nuclear accord and signaled plans to ratchet up pressure on the Iranian economy, and especially on the economic power of the Revolutionary Guards.