Washington sanctions Iran envoy over 'destabilising' Iraq



Iranian ambassador to Iraq Iraj Masjedi on September 11th, 2018, gives a press conference outside the new building of the Iranian consulate in the southern Iraqi city of Basra after the old building was set ablaze by protestors a few days earlier. [Haidar Mohammed Ali/AFP]

Washington imposed sanctions on Thursday (October 22nd) against Tehran's ambassador to Baghdad, accusing him of efforts to destabilise Iraq via his role as a general in Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

The US Treasury Department alleged Iraj Masjedi was a "close adviser" to Qassem Soleimani, Iran's most powerful general, who was killed in January by a US strike.

The sanctions come as Washington's outrage has grown over a series of rocket attacks against US interests in Iraq, which have been blamed on pro-Iran factions.

"Masjedi has overseen a programme of training and support to Iraqi militia groups, and he has directed or supported groups that are responsible for attacks that have killed and wounded US and coalition forces in Iraq," said a Treasury statement.

Masjedi has used his role as Tehran's ambassador to Baghdad to "obfuscate financial transfers" benefitting the IRGC, it added.

"The Iranian regime threatens Iraq's security and sovereignty by appointing [IRGC] officials as ambassadors in the region to carry out their destabilising foreign agenda," Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.

The US has re-imposed sanctions against Tehran since President Donald Trump pulled out of the international deal to prevent the Islamic Republic from developing nuclear weapons.

The Trump administration has pushed its "maximum pressure" campaign against Iran, in the aim of pushing Tehran to accept a new deal.

But Iran has refused talks without sanctions being lifted first.

Washington's pressure campaign has also targeted Tehran's allies in the region, including Lebanon's Hizbullah militia, which Washington considers a terrorist organisation.

Under the sanctions, all property and interests of Masjedi that are under US jurisdiction are blocked and Americans are prohibited from having dealings with him.

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