President Donald Trump has thrown down the gauntlet to Iran by imposing sanctions on six individuals and three companies with ties to the country’s Revolutionary Guard.
US Treasury secretary Steve Mnuchin claims they helped the guard to fund ‘malign activity’ by funnelling millions of dollars through a complex financial network.
He also claims the Iranian central bank was part of the operation.
The Revolutionary Guard is regarded as the elite of Iran’s military. The guard is accused of influencing terrorist and military activity in Yemen, Syria and Lebanon.
The sanctions will stop the Iranian individuals and companies from dealing with America.
“The Iranian regime and its central bank have abused access to entities in the UAE to acquire US dollars to fund the guard’s malign activities, including to fund and arm its regional proxy groups,” Mnuchin said.
“We are intent on cutting off the guard’s revenue streams wherever their source and whatever their destination.”
The Iranian Revolutionary Guard was set up in 1979 when cleric Ayatollah Khomeini ousted the monarchy.
The guard is an influential economic and political player in the country, with thousands of troops and state-of-the-art weapons.
The sanctions follow Trump pulling the plug on a deal brokered by former president Barack Obama in which Iran agreed to halt work on building nuclear weapons in return for the US and other nations to lift sanctions against the country.
Iran and the revolutionary guard have long been at the centre of disagreements in the Middle East.
The guard has deployed troops and equipment in aid of Syria’s President Assad as he fights a desperate civil war.
But Israel claims Iran is using the war as a ploy to set up a front line close to Tel Aviv.
The row led to Iran launching 20 missiles towards Israel – four were intercepted and 16 fell short of their targets. IN retaliation, Israel launched fighter and missile strikes against 70 Iranian targets in Syria and claimed heavy damage was inflicted on military infrastructure.
The guard has also armed Hezbollah in Lebanon and rebels in Yemen.
Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have led an alliance against the rebels in Yemen, while warning of growing Iranian influence in the war-torn country.