The Trump administration announced Tuesday afternoon that the Treasury Department is imposing sanctions on at least 20 corporations and financial institutions connected to the Basij Resistance Force.
The Basij is a paramilitary force founded by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in 1979 and it is subordinate to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which the Treasury designated as a terrorist entity in 2017. The group has branches in every province and state in Iran. The Basij is heavily involved in the recruitment, training and deployment of child soldiers to carry out the IRGC's bidding in the region.
"The Bonyad Taavon Basij network is an example of how the IRGC and Iranian military forces have expanded their economic involvement in major industries, and infiltrated seemingly legitimate businesses to fund terrorism and other malign activities," Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement Tuesday "This vast network provides financial infrastructure to the Basij’s efforts to recruit, train, and indoctrinate child soldiers who are coerced into combat under the IRGC’s direction."
The new sanctions against the Basij state that "all property and interests in property of these entities that are in the United States or in the possession or control of U.S. persons must be blocked" and reported to the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control. Additionally, any individuals that engage in "certain transactions" with the entities designated under the new sanctions could be subject to punishment.
Some of the entities targeted include Mehr Eqtesad Bank, Bank Mellat, Mehr Eqtesad Iranian Investment Company, and more than a dozen others.
Senior administration officials wanted to remind reporters that Tuesday's sanctions are an important step in the president's overall Iran strategy. The new designations and the administration's previous steps toward getting Iran's government to change its behavior, as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said of previous actions, are evidence that the president's strategy is working.
One senior administration official pointed to the "unprecedented expansion of spontaneous domestic protests in what has traditionally been the Iranian regime's power base" as evidence that the sanctions are having their intended effect in the region.
"Because the economic pain is ratcheting up quite a bit, they [Iran's regime] aren't feeling that support," the official said. "We are very interested in increasing the pressure as long as they continue to invest what resources they have in malign activities rather than in the people. Then you find the people blaming their government rather than outside actors."