The U.S. on Wednesday sanctioned an Iranian commercial shipping network it accused of smuggling lethal aid from Iran to its fighters in Syria and to Houthi rebels in Yemen in their fight to control the impoverished country.
The Treasury Department froze any U.S. assets held by Mahan Air, three of its general sales agents based in the United Arab Emirates and Hong Kong and the shipping conglomerate headed by Iranian businessman Abdolhossein Khedri. The sanctions also block U.S. business transactions with the designated entities, with Treasury warning that anyone that conducts business with them risks being sanctioned themselves.
"The Iranian regime uses its aviation and shipping industries to supply its regional terrorist and militant groups with weapons, directly contributing to the devastating humanitarian crises in Syria and Yemen," Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said. "Aviation and shipping industries should be vigilant and not allow their industries to be exploited by terrorists."
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the sanctions "makes America great. We take action."
Treasury said that for more than 10 years Khedri used two of his firms, Khedri Jahan Darya and Maritime Silk Road, to support maritime weapons smuggling by Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps-Qods Force.
Since the start of the Syrian civil war in 2011, Treasury said Mahan Air has transported Iranian fighters and munitions to Syria to prop up the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, contributing to the deaths of more than 200,000 civilians and the displacement of millions more. Treasury said the airline's general sales agents propped up its business operations.