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U.S. sanctions Iran foundations controlled by Khamenei

Secretary of State Michael Pompeo on Wednesday also designated bd al-Aziz Malluh Mirjirash al-Muhammadawi as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist. Photo by Jim Lo Scalzo/UPI
Secretary of State Michael Pompeo on Wednesday also designated bd al-Aziz Malluh Mirjirash al-Muhammadawi as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist. Photo by Jim Lo Scalzo/UPI | License Photo

Jan. 13 (UPI) -- In an effort to tighten its financial vises on Iran in its final days in office, the Trump administration on Wednesday imposed sanctions targeting two organizations it accuses of being controlled by Iran's spiritual leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and designated a former leader of an Iran-backed terrorist organization.

The Treasury Department announced sanctions against the Execution of Imam Khomeini's Order and Astan Quds Razavi, as well as its leaders and subsidiaries, saying the two purported charitable organizations expropriate assets from political dissidents and religious minorities for the benefit Khamenei and senior Iranian officials.

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"These institutions enabled Iran's elite to sustain a corrupt system of ownership over large parts of Iran's economy," Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement. "The United States will continue to target those who enrich themselves while claiming to help the Iranian people."

The sanctions follow the Treasury designating Bonyad Mostazafan in November, which the State Department said was an immense conglomerate controlled by Khamenei with holdings in key sectors of Iran's economy.

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"Alongside Bonyad Mostazafan, and previously designated [Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp]-owned entity Khatam al-Anbiya, AQR and EIKO are estimated to control more than half of the Iranian economy," U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement.

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"These institutions enable Iran's corrupt leaders to exploit a system of ownership over a wide range of sectors of Iran's economy," he added.

The Treasury accused EIKO of being "a business juggernaut" that systematically violated the rights of dissidents through confiscating land and property, including that which belonged to political opponents, religious minorities and Iranians in exile.

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AQR has been accused by the Treasury of masquerading as a charitable organization while acquiring "vast economic holdings" in multiple sectors of the economy under Khamenei's supervision.

A total of 16 companies, 14 of which are subsidiaries to EIKO and AQR, and three of their officials, were sanctioned Wednesday under an executive order President Donald Trump signed in 2019 that targets Khamenei and his office. The sanctions freeze all U.S. assets of named entities and individuals while prohibiting Americans from doing business with them.

The sanctions were imposed days before the Trump administration hands foreign policy of the United States to the incoming administration of President-elect Joe Biden, potentially bringing an end to Trump's so-called maximum pressure campaign against Iran.

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Sanctions have been at the core of this effort to force Iran back to the negotiating table on a new deal to prevent the Middle Eastern country from developing a nuclear weapon after Trump withdrew the United States from an Obama-era multi-nation accord in 2018.

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The State Department on Wednesday also designated Abd al-Aziz Malluh Mirjirash al-Muhammadawi, also know as Abu Fadak, as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist.

Pompeo said he was designated to deny him "the resources to plan and carry out terrorist attacks."

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The State Department said he is the former secretary general of Kataib Hezbollah, an Iraq-based Iran-backed group the United States designated as a foreign terrorist organization in 2009. It also said Fadak has since been working with Iran's elite IRGC "to reshape official Iraqi state security institutions away form their true purpose of defending the Iraqi state and fighting [the Islamic State] to instead support Iran's malign activities."

"Iran-backed elements, including those in which Muhammadawi now plays a leadership role, have previously been involved in sectarian violence, including the abduction of hundreds of men from areas liberated from [IS] control," Pompeo said. "Additionally, groups with which Muhammadawi is affiliated have established fictitious cover names to hide their culpability for ongoing attacks against Iraqi government facilities and foreign diplomatic facilities."

On Tuesday, Pompeo, without providing concrete evidence, said Iran had become the new home base of al-Qaida.

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