Multiple U.S. federal agencies are taking action against Iran for illegally transferring weapons and oil to “countries that pose grave threats to the security and stability of their regions.”
The U.S. Department of Justice filed a civil complaint on Thursday requesting the forfeit of Iranian missiles and weaponry obtained by the U.S. Navy.
“Iran continues to be a leading state sponsor of terrorism and a worldwide destabilizing force,” Assistant Attorney General for National Security John Demers said during a press conference on Thursday. “These actions represent the government’s largest-ever civil seizures of fuel and weapons from Iran.”
The weapons in question — more than a hundred anti-tank, surface-to-air, and land-attack cruise missiles, as well as parts for other missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles — were reportedly shipped in from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), a foreign terrorist organization, to militant groups in Yemen in a “sophisticated scheme.” They were first seized by the U.S. Navy Central Command (NAVCENT) off “two flagless vessels” in the Arabian Sea in late 2019 and early 2020.
This is the second complaint of its kind from the DOJ, with the first filed in late August over seizing fuel on its way to Venezuela from Iran, and is part of a “larger investigation of an Iranian weapons smuggling network responsible for the arms shipments.”
The fuel, more than a million barrels of illicit Iranian petroleum, was reportedly seized earlier on its way to Venezuela on “four foreign-flagged oil tankers” and sold by the U.S. to a third party after a District Court issued a warrant in August allowing for the seizure of the cargo. The “tens of millions of dollars” from the sale will be granted to the United States Victims of State Sponsored Terrorism Fund when the case concludes.
These increasing “potentially deadly” actions such as these weapons transfers by Iran have spurred the U.S. Departments of State and Treasury to sanction at least 11 entities and 5 individuals, entities, and their executives in Singapore and in Hong Kong relating to Iran’s petrochemical exports.
On Monday, the Trump administration announced they will slap Iran with more sanctions as well for illegally giving weapons and oil to terrorist groups and countries that threaten the security of their regions. These sanctions, State Department’s Special Representative for Iran and Venezuela Elliott Abrams explained, are supposed to prevent the Iranian regime from accumulating money, which they often distribute to terrorist groups and organizations.
“The purpose is to reduce the amounts available to the Iranian regime for all of the malicious activities that are undertaken,” Abrams said. “Particularly, things like support for terrorist groups and intervention in Yemen. That’s a critical goal, and the other is to pressure the regime into a negotiation.”
“In our view, that should be a comprehensive negotiation that deals with, not only with nuclear issues but also Iran’s malicious behavior in the region and Iran’s missile program,” Abrams added. “We’re building up a lot of leverage.”
In late August, the Trump administration issued a snapback of Iranian sanctions after Iran repeatedly continued to violate President Obama’s Iran nuclear deal, or the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) established in 2015 by increasing uranium production levels and accumulating large amounts of “heavy water,” both used in the production and manufacturing of nuclear weapons.