Human Rights

Network that Funds Iranian Militia Recruiting Child Soldiers, Sanctioned by U.S. Treasury

The United States Treasury Department imposed sanctions on “a vast network” of organizations that fund the Basij militia, which recruits child soldiers and supports terror groups across the Middle East, the Washington Free Beacon reported Tuesday.

The Basij Resistance Force has ties to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which is Iran’s primary military force for exporting its revolutionary ideals and conducting terror attacks beyond Iran’s borders. The sanctions are part of what the Trump administration calls its “maximum pressure” campaign on Iran.

“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 explained in a statement announcing the sanctions. 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.”

Mnuchin said that the sanctions would serve as a reminder to the world that doing business with the Bonyad Taavon Basij network or with IRGC front companies has “real world humanitarian consequences.”

Treasury charged that more than 20 businesses and financial institutions make up the Basij financial network. In addition to the companies named, the network “employs shell companies and other measures to mask Basij ownership and control over a variety of multibillion-dollar business interests in Iran’s automotive, mining, metals, and banking industries, many of which have significant international dealings across the Middle East and with Europe.”

“In addition to its involvement in violent crackdowns and serious human rights abuses in Iran, the Basij recruits and trains fighters for the IRGC-QF, including Iranian children, who then deploy to Syria to support the brutal Assad regime,” the Treasury Department’s statement read.  “Since at least early 2015, the Basij has recruited and provided combat training to fighters before placing them on a waiting list for deployment to Syria.”

Treasury added: “the Basij also recruits Afghan immigrants to Iran, including children as young as 14-years-old, to join the Fatemiyoun Brigade,” also to fight in Syria in support of its dictator, Bashar al-Assad.

Saeed Ghasseminejad, a senior advisor at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, called the designations, “the most significant designation of IRGC-connected companies over the past few years.” He noted that previously, Treasury would generally only target companies that had done something “nefarious.” The just-announced sanctions, according to Ghasseminejad, now allows the U.S. to pursue “a very aggressive designation campaign.”

“International companies from Asia to Europe that partner with companies associated with the Basij are conducting business that could contribute to the ongoing human rights abuses and terrorism the Basij exports to the region,” the Treasury statement cautioned in assessing the global impact of the new sanctions. “Treasury urges international companies to ensure they are conducting the necessary due diligence to avoid engaging in sanctionable activity with entities that support the Iranian regime’s malign activity.”

[Photo: United States Treasury ]