US Targets Iranian Military’s ‘Shadow Banking’ Network with Sanctions

The Biden administration has targeted an alleged network linked to Iran’s military.

The US government has imposed sanctions on nearly 50 organizations and individuals accused of handling money transfers for Tehran, labeling them a “sprawling shadow banking network” for the Iranian military.

The US Treasury Department announced the new sanctions on Tuesday, stating that the targeted entities had moved billions of dollars for the Iranian Defense Ministry and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) since 2020. The network allegedly provided Iran’s military forces access to the international financial system, in violation of US sanctions.

A significant portion of the funds in question were generated from Iranian oil and petrochemical sales. These earnings were concealed through a network of exchange houses and “foreign cover companies,” subsequently made available to the Iranian military, the Treasury Department revealed in a statement. The funds were utilized for purposes such as purchasing weapons and financing affiliated militant groups, such as the Houthi rebels in Yemen.

“The United States is taking action against a vast shadow banking system used by Iran’s military to launder billions of dollars of oil proceeds and other illicit revenue,” Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo said in the statement. He continued, “We continue to work with allies and partners, as well as the global financial industry, to increase vigilance against the movement of funds supporting terrorism.”

Iran’s diplomatic mission to the United Nations responded to the latest sanctions by accusing Washington of waging “economic war” against Tehran. “They have attacked, and we are defending ourselves accordingly,” the mission stated. “The outcome of this economic war will be determined by the strength of will, not by the capabilities of imposing sanctions.”

Dozens of companies in Hong Kong, the United Arab Emirates, Türkiye and the Marshall Islands were targeted with the latest anti-Iran sanctions. The measures freeze the US assets of banned entities and prohibit US citizens from conducting business with them.

The Treasury Department explained that firms registered in locations such as Hong Kong and the UAE transferred oil revenue for an Iranian front company called Sahara Thunder. Earlier this year, the US imposed sanctions against Sahara Thunder, alleging that it was overseeing commercial activities for the Iranian Defense Ministry in support of the IRGC and Russia’s military operations in Ukraine.