Iranian interests and activities in Iraq have been dealt painful blows following the US decision to blacklist several entities and individuals linked to Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), experts and citizens said.
On June 12th, the US Treasury placed Iraq-based South Wealth Resources on its sanctions blacklist, saying the company is an important weapons trafficking and financial front for the IRGC.
The Treasury said the company, Manabea Tharwat al-Janoob General Trading Company, was used by the IRGC to smuggle "hundreds of millions of dollars' worth" of weapons to IRGC allies in Iraq.
The company has also helped move millions of dollars to Iraq "for illicit financial activity benefitting" the IRGC and Iraqi militias it supports.
The company and two Iraqis who worked with it -- Makki Kazim Abd al-Hamid al-Asadi and Muhammed Husayn Salih al-Hasani -- were also placed on the US State Department's list of "Specially Designated Global Terrorists".
"I support any decision that helps trace companies that are funding the IRGC and its militias and put an end to their activities," a Baghdad resident said on condition of anonymity.
"These companies are like the fuel tank of the [Iranian] regime and it is important to empty it so that our country and the world can enjoy stability," he told Diyaruna.
"The Iranian regime does not want anything good for the Iraqi people," Haj Abu Mohammed, a Basra native, told Diyaruna.
"We support any decision to restrict Iranian interests in Iraq, the latest of which was the blacklisting of Manabea Tharwat al-Janoob," he said.
'Evidence of Iran's role'
Exposing Manabea Tharwat al-Janoob gives "unequivocal evidence of the Iranian role in destroying Iraq", said political affairs researcher Abdul Qader al-Nayel.
"The Iranian regime is using its proxies in the form of Iraqi militias to make money from suspicious activities and dirty operations at the expense of the Iraqi economy and through plundering its resources," he told Diyaruna.
Iran uses the financial resources of Iraqis to serve its own interests and finance its armed groups in order to expand its influence inside Iraq and abroad, he said.
Al-Nayel called for mounting efforts to target all clandestine Iranian interests in Iraq, noting the existence of "companies, banks and factories, some of which are run by secret agents that have strong ties to the Iranian regime and collect money for it and its terrorist groups".
"For over a decade Iran has been creating many companies and factories that have been granted commercial licenses in Iraq in order to infiltrate the Iraqi economy and market," strategy analyst Muayed al-Juhayshi told Diyaruna.
These companies operate in the banking, commercial and financial sectors to fund Iran and contribute towards easing the economic pressure of sanctions on Tehran, he said.
"Significant portions of the revenue of these companies are directed to Iraqi militias and also to Lebanon's Hizbullah militia and the Houthis [Ansarallah]," he added.
Curbing Iran's ambitions
The US Treasury’s decision to blacklist Manabea Tharwat al-Janoob was preceded with another in March to impose sanctions on a network of 25 people and companies -- including a clutch of front companies -- in Iran, Turkey and the UAE, that were helping to raise billions of dollars to fund the IRGC's operations and evade US sanctions.
In March, the US Treasury Department also sanctioned the Iran-backed Harakat al-Nujaba militia, as well as its leader Akram Kaabi.
It is hoped that sanctions would be "an effective deterrent to curb Iranian ambitions and weaken its agents", strategic and military analyst Rabie al-Jawary told Diyaruna.
"Tehran is involved in running networks that serve as conduits for raising funds from various sources in an attempt to evade sanctions and finance the influential IRGC and groups affiliated with it," he said.
But these conduits are now being dealt "painful blows", he said.
"The Iraqi government must tighten its [security] control and prevent the Iranians from enriching their coffers with Iraqi money," al-Jawary said.