U.S. Imposes Sanctions on Iran’s Military for Supporting Terrorist Proxies and Russia’s War against Ukraine

The repeated criticism of Iran's support for Russia represents a significant change in U.S. policy toward Iran—and one that benefits the Kurds.
The seal of the United States Department of the Treasury.
The seal of the United States Department of the Treasury.

WASHINGTON DC, United States (Kurdistan 24) – On Thursday, the U.S. announced new sanctions on the Iranian military for its support of terrorist proxy groups in the Middle East, as well as its support for Russia in its war with Ukraine.

“We are focused on disrupting Iran’s ability to finance its terrorist proxy and partner groups and support to Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine,” U.S. Under Secretary of-the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, Brian Nelson, said in announcing the new measures.

“The United States will continue to use our full range of tools to target the illicit funding streams that enable Iran’s destabilizing activities in the region and around the world,” he added. 

Thursday marked the second day in a row that the Biden administration has criticized what it has described as the “burgeoning security partnership between Iran and Russia.”

Read More: U.S Criticizes ‘Burgeoning Security Partnership Between Iran and Russia’

Thursday’s sanctions target a shipping company based in Dubai: Oceanlink Maritime DMCC. 

Oceanlink facilitates “the shipment of Iranian commodities on behalf of Iran’s Armed Forces General Staff (AFGS) and Ministry of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics (MODAFL),” the Treasury Department stated in describing the new sanctions.

Last November, the U.S. sanctioned an Iranian company—Sepehr Energy—and its senior officers. Part of the budget of Iran’s military organizations comes from commodities, including oil, provided to them by the government for sale on the international market. 

The role of Sepehr Energy is to carry out such sales in a way that obscures the fact that the commodity came from Iran, thereby circumventing U.S. sanctions. Sepehr Energy was using Oceanlink for that purpose. 

Thus, thirteen ships belonging to Oceanlink were also sanctioned. As the Treasury Department explained, a commodity, like oil, would be transferred from the original ship on which it left Iran to another ship, before reaching its destination, and, in the process, obscuring its origin.

Policy Change that Benefits the Kurds

The new sanctions and the critical description of Tehran’s role in supporting Russia’s war in Ukraine represent a significant change in the Biden administration’s policy toward Iran—and one that benefits the Kurds.

When the administration took office in Jan. 2021, it had, as a high priority, renewing the Obama-era nuclear deal with Iran, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA.) 

Yet by the summer of 2022, it had become evident that Iran was not really interested, and the U.S. quietly dropped that diplomacy.

Read More: US remains cool to proposals for reviving Iran nuclear deal

But even so, the administration believed that its Middle East policy was successful. As National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told The Atlantic Festival, a two-day policy forum hosted by The Atlantic magazine, “The Middle East is quieter today than it has been in two decades.”

That was Sept. 29. Sullivan attributed this happy circumstance to administration policy, which was “to depressurize, de-escalate, and ultimately integrate the Middle East region.” 

Of course, that was a huge misreading of the situation—a policy and intelligence failure, as Hamas’s October 7 assault on Israel would show. Among many things that might be said about such a failure, it was harmful for the Kurds.

If there is no problem in some region, why spend time and energy on it? U.S. officials have many other things to do. So the Kurds and their issues were neglected.

The extended war in Gaza resulting from Hamas’s brutal assault on Israel, however, has radically changed that. As the highly-regarded Institute for the Study of War has said, “Iran and its so-called ‘Axis of Resistance’ are exploiting the Israel-Hamas war to support their objective of expelling US forces from the Middle East.”

Washington could no longer neglect the region. In addition, the position of many European countries has changed as well, because of Iran’s support for Russia in its war with Ukraine. 

Initially, the European Union (EU) was a strong advocate of restoring the JCPOA, and it acted as an intermediary between the U.S. and Iran in indirect talks held in Vienna. 

Like the Biden administration, the EU took a conciliatory position toward Tehran in an effort to seal the deal. The EU’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, was a strong, self-righteous voice for that.

Yet Europe is no longer united on such a position. On Wednesday, following a meeting of NATO Foreign Ministers, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg affirmed that “Iran’s military support to Russia has serious global security consequences” which NATO cannot ignore, as Reuters reported.

In addition, France, Germany, the Netherlands, the Baltic States, Czech Republic, Denmark, and Romania have asked for “new EU-wide sanctions on Iran,” Reuters said.

The EU is divided, and Borrell is reluctant to take such measures. There have been no new EU sanctions, but there is no longer an EU consensus on the need to act in a conciliatory way toward Iran in order to revive the JCPOA.