US sanctions two Khamenei foundations in latest pressure on Iran

Organisations hit by US measures are believed to control large parts of Iranian economy

epa08926115 A handout picture made available by the Iran supreme leader office shows, Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei  during a live TV speech, in Tehran, Iran, 08 January 2021. Media reported that Khamenei  called to ban the import of American and British vaccines, claiming they are not to be trusted.  EPA/SUPREME LEADER OFFICE HANDOUT  HANDOUT EDITORIAL USE ONLY/NO SALES
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The Trump administration on Wednesday sanctioned two organisations controlled by Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

The US Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control announced the sanctions on two Iranian organisations, along with their leaders and subsidiaries, believed to be controlled by Mr Khamenei.

The organisations are the Execution of Imam Khomeini’s Order (Eiko), and Astan Quds Razavi (AQR).

It is said the two foundations “control large swaths of the Iranian economy, including assets expropriated from political dissidents and religious minorities, to the benefit of supreme leader Ali Khamenei and senior Iranian government officials.”

“These institutions enable Iran’s elite to sustain a corrupt system of ownership over large parts of Iran’s economy,” US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said.

“The United States will continue to target those who enrich themselves while claiming to help the Iranian people.”

Wednesday's sanctions follow November's designation of the Bonyad Mostazafan, described by the State Department as "an immense conglomerate controlled by Khamenei with holdings in key sectors of Iran's economy".

Jason Brodsky, policy director at United Against Nuclear Iran, said the new sanctions were focused on Mr Khamenei’s closest confidants.

“The custodianship of AQR, one of Iran’s largest foundations, was held by Ebrahim Raisi before he became chief justice," Mr Brodsky said.

"He is considered a leading contender to succeed Khamenei.”

The current custodian of AQR is Ahmad Marvi, described by Mr Brodsky as a “trusted confidant” of Mr Khamenei.

“He used to work in the Office of the Supreme Leader prior to his appointment and has been close with him for decades,” he said.

Mr Brodsky said Eiko had sanctions imposed previously and that this new move by the Treasury “is layering in new sanctions under a different authority".

The Trump administration is increasing its non-nuclear sanctions on Iran before its departure next Wednesday, making it harder for the Biden administration to remove them in any rapprochement with Tehran.

On Wednesday, the US also designated Iraqi militant leader Abd Al Aziz Al Muhammadawi as a specially designated global Terrorist.

The State Department identified Mr Al Muhammadawi as the former secretary general of Iraq’s Kataib Hezbollah, a US-designated foreign terrorist organisation backed by Iran.

“Muhammadawi is separately working in conjunction with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force to reshape official Iraqi state security institutions away from their true purpose of defending the Iraqi state and fighting ISIS, to instead support Iran’s malign activities, including the defence of the Assad regime in Syria,” the US government said.

It also accused him of being “involved in sectarian violence, including the abductions of hundreds of men from areas liberated from ISIS control".