US names Iran’s top banker a terrorist

May 16, 2018

WASHINGTON (JTA) — In an unusual move, the U.S. Treasury Department named Iran’s top banker a terrorist Tuesday for his role in funneling money to Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shiite militia designated by Washington as a terrorist organization.

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin declared it “appalling, but not surprising” that Valiollah Seif, governor of the Central Bank of Iran and Ali Tarzali, a senior official in the bank’s international department, would “facilitate funding of terror groups like Hezbollah.” The Treasury Department charged that the two bank officials worked with the Iran Revolutionary Guard- Quds Force — the force responsible for many of Iran’s military actions abroad — in doing so.

The designation of the two bank officials as terrorists comes a week after President Donald Trump reinstated sanctions on the bank itself as part of his withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal.

The reinstated sanctions also target third-party entities, including individuals, companies and governments that deal with Iran’s Central Bank. Trump’s threat to reimpose the sanctions has prompted angry rejoinders from the United States’ traditional West European allies, including Britain, France and Germany, which continue to abide by the nuclear deal. Trump wants these countries to join him in sanctioning Iran to extract what he says would be a better deal.

Trump wants any replacement deal to address, among other things, Iran’s missile program and its military activities beyond its borders. Hezbollah, a key regional ally of Iran, has been certified as a terrorist group by both Israel and the U.S. State Department. It attacked Israel in 2006, setting off a month-long war with the Jewish state. Hezbollah and Iran are currently helping to prop up the Assad regime in Syria’s brutal civil war.

Banning dealings with the bank’s top personnel may be seen as a way to increase pressure on the U.S. allies to play ball.

Also named as terrorists in the Treasury release are Aras Habib, the chairman of Al-Bilad Islamic Bank in Iraq; and Muhammad Qasir, a Hezbollah official, both for their role in funneling IRGC money to Hezbollah.

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