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U.S. State Dept. official: Iran is the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism

U.S. Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, Sigal Mandelker
U.S. Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, Sigal Mandelker

March 15, 2019 - On March 12, in a hearing before the House Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government, U.S. Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, Sigal Mandelker, said: “Iran is the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism.”

“We are continuing to maximize economic pressure on the regime to combat its weapons proliferation, terrorism, and regionally destabilizing activities,” she continued.

Mandelker described a sophisticated and encompassing approach to combat the Iranian regime’s illegal financial activities that includes organizational and structural improvements.

“To enhance collaboration among Treasury’s Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence (TFI) components, I have stood up six initial Strategic Impact Units (SIU) across some of our highest priorities—North Korea, Russia, ISIS, Iran, virtual currency, and human rights and corruption,” she said.

These units bring together experts from across TFI to ensure that we are appropriately collaborating our tools and authorities to achieve strategic and tactical objectives. In addition to these initial SIUs, our components work strategically together on a broad range of efforts,” undersecretary Mandelker added.

Her written statements to the subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government also reveal another institutional improvement that is directly targeted at the Iranian regime.

“We have also stood up a fusion cell to improve TFI and interagency coordination against Iran. The Iran Finance Fusion Cell is an intra-TFI and interagency group that is building out our knowledge of Iran’s malign activities and considering new ways to take action against Iran and Iranian-backed illicit actors,” the statement reads.

“We have also made great progress in advancing our counterterrorism efforts through the Terrorist Financing Targeting Center (TFTC), a multinational effort with the entire Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC),” she adds.

In describing U.S. Treasury’s Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence’ strategic priorities around the world, undersecretary Mandelker brings up the Iranian regime on top of her list and says: “Iran is the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism, and we are continuing to maximize economic pressure on the regime to combat its weapons proliferation, terrorism, and regionally destabilizing activities.”

“Last November, we re-imposed all of the U.S. sanctions authorities previously lifted under the Iran nuclear agreement, and added over 700 individuals, entities, aircraft, and vessels onto our sanctions list on a single day. As part of that, we designated 70 Iran-linked financial institutions and subsidiaries. This brings the total number of Iran-related sanctions targets under this Administration to 927 entities, individuals, vessels, and aircraft,” her statement reads.

“We have exposed the Central Bank of Iran (CBI) as a key figure in the regime’s ongoing deception and funding of malign activities and designated CBI officials who have enabled funding to terrorist groups.”

“For example, in November, we designated a network operating out of Russia, Syria, and Iran that was responsible for providing oil to the Assad regime and funneling cash to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF), Hizballah, and Hamas. The Central Bank of Iran, including CBI officials, played a key role in this scheme by facilitating the transfer of millions of dollars to Russia for its role in transporting oil to Syria. On the same day, in a coordinated action, we issued a maritime shipping advisory alerting foreign governments, port authorities, and insurance providers to the risk of facilitating deliveries of oil to Syria,” she adds.

About the Iranian regime’s misuse of commercial airlines for terrorist purposes Mandelker said: “We are also targeting Iran’s use of its commercial aviation sector for illicit purposes and those who provide support to designated Iranian airlines. Mahan Air, a designated Iranian airline, plays a key role in supporting the IRGC-QF and transporting weapons and fighters on its behalf, and we are urging countries to deny landing rights to the airline. As a direct result of these efforts, countries have taken steps to deny Mahan Air access to their airports.”

She also described her department’s approach about the Iranian regime’s financing of terrorism through financial mechanisms: “In addition, we are continuing to warn countries and the private sector of the grave dangers of much of Iran’s commercial sector, including through an expansive FinCEN advisory issued in October 2018 where we documented scheme after scheme that the regime uses to abuse the international financial system.”

“We also provided red flags to financial institutions to help them harden their systems and operations from abuse. And we have engaged extensively with European countries on the significant risks of launching a special purpose vehicle for a country that has repeatedly failed to adopt international AML/CFT safeguards. We have made clear that those who engage in activities that run afoul of U.S. sanctions risk severe consequences, including losing access to the U.S. financial system and the ability to do business with the United States,” Mandelker concluded her remarks about the Treasury’s approach towards Iran.

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