US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. Photo: Reuters
US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. Photo: Reuters

US sanctions Iran businesses, alleging ties to child soldiers

The US Treasury Department charged that the Iran businesses are complicit in the Basij Resistance Force's 'efforts to recruit, train, and indoctrinate child soldiers who are coerced into combat

Washington: The US Treasury Department imposed financial sanctions on Tuesday against the Middle East’s largest steel producer and largest tractor manufacturer, alleging they provide financial support to an Iranian paramilitary group and are complicit in the recruitment of children as soldiers.

Iran Tractor Manufacturing Co., identified as the largest tractor company in the Middle East and North Africa, and Mobarakeh Steel Company, identified as the largest steelmaker in the region, were among 22 corporations and banks the Treasury described as a network providing support to the Basij Resistance Force. The Treasury Department cited the paramilitary group’s ties to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin charged that the businesses are complicit in the Basij Resistance Force’s “efforts to recruit, train, and indoctrinate child soldiers who are coerced into combat."

The US is seeking to choke off Iran’s economy with expansive sanctions against the country’s oil industry that take effect in November. Trump withdrew from the seven-nation Iran nuclear deal in May, dismissing objections from the other countries in the accord.

The Trump administration hopes re-imposing sanctions on the Islamic Republic will force its leaders back to the negotiating table to agree on a new, broader pact that would constrain not only its nuclear program but also what the US calls its “malign activity" in the Middle East and its development of ballistic missiles.

The Basij, formed shortly after the 1979 revolution and brought under the authority of the Revolutionary Guard in 2007, indoctrinates schoolchildren and provides combat training to children as young as 12 years old, the Treasury Department said in a press release announcing the sanctions. The paramilitary group has been involved in violent crackdowns in Iran and has recruited fighters for deployment to Syria, the Treasury Department alleged.

The network of businesses, identified as Bonyad Taavon Basij, is responsible for providing social welfare services including housing and financial support to Basij paramilitaries.

Mnuchin said that the network of companies is an example of how the Revolutionary Guard and other Iranian military “forces have expanded their economic involvement in major industries, and infiltrated seemingly legitimate businesses to fund terrorism and other malign activities."

The Treasury Department also sanctioned Iran’s Mehr Eqtesad Bank, Bank Mellat, Mehr Eqtesad Iranian Investment Company, Tadbirgaran Atiyeh Investment Company, Negin Sahel Royal Company, Mehr Eqtesad Financial Group, Technotar Engineering Company, and Taktar Investment Company.

The sanctions also include Iran’s Zinc Mines Development Company, Bandar Abbas Zinc Production Company, Qeshm Zinc Smelting And Reduction Company, Zanjan Acid Production Company, and Parsian Catalyst Chemical Company.

Also sanctioned are Andisheh Mehvaran Investment Company, Parsian Bank, Sina Bank, and Bahman Group.