Oct. 16 (UPI) -- The U.S. Treasury Department issued new sanctions on Iran over allegations it recruited child soldiers to fight for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Syria.
The Treasury Department said Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps' Basij militia "recruits, trains and deploys child soldiers to fight in IRGC-fueled conflicts across the region." In response, the U.S. governnment's sanctions are designed to economically cripple the IRCG's money flow by targeting its business interests in Iran's automotive, mining, metals and banking industries.
"The Bonyad Taavon Basij network is an example of how the IRGC and Iranian military forces have expanded their economic involvement in major industries, and infiltrated seemingly legitimate businesses to fund terrorism and other malign activities," Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.
He added: "This vast network provides financial infrastructure to the Basij's efforts to recruit, train, and indoctrinate child soldiers who are coerced into combat under the IRGC's direction. The international community must understand that business entanglements with the Bonyad Taavon Basij network and IRGC front companies have real world humanitarian consequences. This helps fuel the Iranian regime's violent ambitions across the Middle East."
In November, Human Rights Watch reported that the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting agency published video of a 13-year-old Iranian boy who "volunteered" to fight in Syria. Other reports indicate Iran has been sending child soldiers to Syria since at least 2016.
Trump administration officials said the latest round of sanctions against Iran are meant to show that the United States is serious about responding to human rights abuses.
"The recruiting of 12-year-olds is unacceptable," a senior administration official told Politico. "It's disgusting. It's deplorable. Sending children to Syria from either Iran or Afghanistan to fight and very sadly to die is despicable. And we think it's incredibly important that the world understands what it is that they're doing."
However, the Trump administration has not been as critical of the Saudi Arabian government, which is routinely criticized for widespread and egregious human rights abuses against its citizens and carrying out a war in Yemen, where thousands of civilians have been killed.
Most recently, the government is accused of killing Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist and Washington Post columnist, in Turkey.
Trump has refused to condemn the Saudi government for wrongdoing until further investigation is concluded and said he has no plans to stop arms sales to the oil-rich kingdom.