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The US has imposed sanctions on a Russian-backed oil smuggling and money laundering network for Iran’s Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force.
The U.S. Treasury Department said the network was led by current and former Quds Force figures, “backed by senior levels of the Russian Federation government” and included Chinese companies and a former Afghan diplomat. It had raised hundreds of millions of dollars for Iran’s Quds Force and Tehran’s Lebanese allies Hezbollah, and helped Tehran support proxy militant groups, Treasury said.
The Quds Force is the foreign espionage and paramilitary arm of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and controls its allied militia abroad. The first time Washington formally labelled another nation’s military as a terrorist group was when the Trump administration put the guards on the State Department’s list of foreign terrorist organizations in 2019.
The Biden administration has been engaged in indirect talks to restart a 2015 deal former President Donald Trump abandoned, under which world powers lifted international financial sanctions on Tehran in return for curbs on its nuclear program.
“While the United States continues to seek a mutual return to full implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), we will strictly enforce sanctions on Iran’s illicit oil trade,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement, referring to the nuclear deal.
The Iranian mission to the United Nations in New York and the Russian embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Liu Pengyu, the spokesperson for the Chinese Embassy in Washington, said China always opposes unilateral sanctions.
“The willful imposition of unilateral sanctions, especially if it harms the interests of a third party, will neither enhance mutual trust between relevant parties nor contribute to their joint efforts to solve some international issues,” Liu said.