U.S. Sanctions Iran for Aiding Syria (WSJ) WALL STREET JOURNAL) By JAY SOLOMON WASHINGTON 03/28/12)
WALL STREET JOURNAL
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WASHINGTON—The Obama administration sanctioned an Iranian airline for
allegedly ferrying machine guns and munitions into Syria to help
President Bashar al-Assad put down a rebellion against his rule.
The shipments, according to U.S. officials, are part of an operation
headed by Iran´s elite military unit, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard
Corps, to help bolster the Syrian regime.
Iranian and Syrian officials have repeatedly denied that Tehran is
supplying arms to the Assad regime. They have also accused the U.S.
and its Arab allies of fomenting the revolution against the Syrian
The Treasury on Tuesday also sanctioned three commanders from the
IRGC´s international arm, the Quds Force, for their alleged
involvement in arms smuggling, particularly into Africa. The U.S.
believes the Quds Force is using shipping companies in African
countries, such as Nigeria, to move weapons into conflict areas,
including Gambia. Shipments of arms apparently bound for Gambian
rebels were seized by Nigerian secret service agents in late 2010,
prompting Gambia to cut off diplomatic relations with Tehran.
"As the Iranian regime exports its lethal aid and expertise to foment
violence in Syria and Africa, Treasury will continue to expose the
officials and companies involved," the Treasury Department´s pointman
on counterterrorism, Undersecretary David Cohen, said in a statement
The sanctions bar U.S. citizens from any dealings with the Iranian
airline, Yas Air, or the Quds Force commanders, freeze any assets
they may have under U.S. control, and subject foreign firms to
similar penalties for doing business with them.
Syria has emerged as a flash point for the global competition between
the West and Iran as opposition forces seek to end the Assad family´s
Mr. Assad is Tehran´s closest Arab ally. Syria and Iran have
historically coordinated closely in arming and funding the militant
groups Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Palestinian territories.
U.S. officials hope that the overthrow of the Syrian regime will
greatly diminish Iran´s ability to use Arab allies to target Israel.
U.S. and Arab officials said they first detected Iranian support for
Mr. Assad´s crackdown last spring, largely in the form of
surveillance equipment and intelligence-sharing. But these officials
said they have also uncovered intelligence showing the Quds Force has
been increasing its arms supplies to Mr. Assad´s security forces.
Many of the shipments are being delivered by the Qods Force using its
fleet of Russian-made Ilyushin and Antonov planes flying over Turkish
and Iraqi air space, according to U.S. officials.
The Treasury said that in March 2011 the Quds Force ordered a series
of arms shipments into Syria using Yas Air´s cargo planes. The
deliveries had been coordinated with Hezbollah and Syrian security
forces, according to U.S. officials.
Turkey grounded one of the flights and found a large cache of weapons
that had been listed on the flight´s manifest as "auto spare parts."
Among the weapons were Kalashnikov AK-47 assault rifles, machines
guns, nearly 8,000 rounds of ammunition and an assortment of mortar
shells, the Treasury said.
Yas Air is based in Tehran. The U.S. and its European allies have
been sanctioning Iranian transportation concerns, including shipping
and port companies, in an attempt to cut off Tehran´s ability to ship
arms and procure equipment for its nuclear program. (Copyright © Dow
Jones & Company, Inc.) 03/28/12)
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