U.S. names Iran’s top banker a terrorist


WASHINGTON (JTA) — In an unusual move the U.S. Treasury named Iran’s top banker a terrorist for his role in funneling money to Hezbollah.

“It is appalling, but not surprising, that Iran’s senior-most banking official would conspire with the IRGC-QF to facilitate funding of terror groups like Hezbollah, and it undermines any credibility he could claim in protecting the integrity of the institution as a central bank governor,” Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said Tuesday in a statement. IRGC-QF stands for Iran Revolutionary Guard- Quds Force, the Iranian armed force that is responsible for much of Iran’s adventurism abroad.

The designation as terrorists of Valiollah Seif, the bank’s governor, and Ali Tarzali, the assistant director of the bank’s international department, comes a week after President Donald Trump reinstated sanctions on the bank itself as part of his withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal.

The U.S. sanctions Trump reinstated last week target third-party entities, including individuals, companies and governments, that deal with Iran’s Central Bank. The threat of reimposition of sanctions already has prompted angry rejoinders from governments the U.S. is otherwise allied with and that continue to abide by the nuclear deal, among them Britain, France and Germany. Trump wants these countries to join him in sanctioning Iran to extract what he says would be a better deal to end its suspected nuclear weapons program.

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Trump wants any replacement deal to address, among other things, Iran’s missile program and its adventurism in the region. Hezbollah, a Lebanese terrorist group which launched a war against Israel in 2006, is a key regional ally to Iran. Hezbollah and Iran are helping to prop up the Assad regime in its 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.