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Iran shuns new U.S. sanctions for smuggling weapons into Yemen

By
Darryl Coote
An Iranian navy vessel fires a surface-to-air missile during a military exercise in the Sea of Oman, near the Strait of Hormuz. File Photo by Ali Mohammadi/UPI
An Iranian navy vessel fires a surface-to-air missile during a military exercise in the Sea of Oman, near the Strait of Hormuz. File Photo by Ali Mohammadi/UPI | License Photo

Dec. 12 (UPI) -- Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Tehran will overcome a new round of U.S. sanctions that target its transportation network, for importing weapons and smuggling them into Yemen -- to aid forces the United States considers terrorist.

The sanctions target the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines, its Shanghai-based subsidiary ESAIL Shipping Company and three agents of Mahan Air. They will take effect in June, giving humanitarian exporters time to find alternative shipping networks. The sanctions against the Mahan Air agents take effect immediately.

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"Today's designations put the world on notice: Those who engage in illicit transactions with these companies will risk exposure to sanctions themselves," Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters Wednesday.

"These programs involved the siphoning of funds away from the oppressed Iranian people, and they augment the regime's campaign of terror and intimidation at home and throughout the world."

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The Iranian president shunned the Trump administration's latest round of fiscal punishment.

"We should either bypass the sanctions or compel the enemy to repent, and the administration is determined to frustrate this plot both through boosting domestic production and other different means like negotiations," Rouhani said.

"But in doing so, [we] will act in line with the establishment's red lines and will not cross them."

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Mahan Air was sanctioned under counterterrorism authorities in October 2011 for providing support to the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, but Wednesday's move recognizes its specific role in proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, including missiles, Pompeo noted.

The United States also sanctioned eight entities involved in an Iranian shipping network for smuggling "lethal aid" to Yemen on behalf of the IRGC, the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control said. President Donald Trump designated the IRGC a "terrorist" group in April.

"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 in a statement. "Aviation and shipping industries should be vigilant and not allow their industries to be exploited by terrorists."

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Trump has been tightening financial vises against Tehran since he withdrew last year from the 2015 Obama-era nuclear deal.

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