US imposes more Iran sanctions and hits Syrian regime with penalties for drug trafficking

Mar 26, 2024, 9:35 AM

WASHINGTON (AP) — The United States on Tuesday imposed sanctions on a money exchanger and a group of firms across six countries involved in commodity shipments and business transactions that benefit Iran’s military and the Houthi militant group in Yemen and the Hezbollah militia in Lebanon.

The Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control sanctioned six firms, two tankers and a money exchanger, all either based or registered in Liberia, India, Vietnam, Lebanon or Kuwait. They are accused of materially benefiting Iran, the Houthis and Hezbollah.

Hezbollah and the Houthis have been launching regular attacks since the onset of Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza, and they have sparked international concern that the war in the Palestinian enclave could spill over into the rest of the Middle East.

Hezbollah militants and Israeli troops exchange fire on a near-daily basis along Lebanon’s southern border, which has led to the displacement of tens of thousands of people on both sides. Despite losing more than 200 combatants and Israel striking deeper into the tiny country, Hezbollah maintains that it will stop launching rockets into northern Israel only when there is a cease-fire in Gaza.

Meanwhile, Yemen’s Houthi rebels, who control much of Yemen’s north and west, have been launching drones and missiles on ships in the Red Sea, which they say is an effort to pressure Israel to end its war. Despite U.S.-led airstrikes over the past two months, they have carried on with their campaign.

In a separate announcement Tuesday, Treasury slapped sanctions on 11 people and entities accused of facilitating financial transfers to the Syrian government to help it duck sanctions and being involved in the trafficking of a highly addictive amphetamine called Captagon that has become a booming industry in the war-torn country.

Treasury sanctioned a Syrian identified as Taher al-Kayali and his company Neptunus LLC, accused of purchasing cargo ships to smuggle Captagon to Europe. One of his ships was intercepted by Greek authorities in 2018. Mahmoud Abulilah Al-Dj and his companies Al-Ta’ir Company and FreeBird Travel and Tourism were also sanctioned. He has had several of his drug shipments seized in Libya, and has cooperated with Abulilah. Al-Dj is also the “exclusive agent” of sanctioned Syrian airliner Cham Wings in Libya, Treasury said.

Experts say Captagon is primarily produced in Syria and Lebanon, where packages containing millions of pills are smuggled into Gulf countries, Europe and elsewhere. The trade allegedly has strong ties to Syrian President Bashar Assad and his associates, as well as the Iran-backed Hezbollah militant group in neighboring Lebanon.

Western governments estimate that the industry has generated billions of dollars in revenue for Syria. Syria’s Arab neighbors, notably Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and other Gulf states, have been desperate to halt the trade, as millions of pills have been smuggled in.

Meanwhile, Treasury slapped sanctions on Syria-based Maya Exchange Company, as well as Aleksey Makarov, the vice president of the listed Russian Financial Cooperation Bank, and Muhammad ’Ali Al-Minala of the Syrian central bank, who used the exchange company to make payments to “a Jordanian beneficiary”.

Treasury also slapped sanctions on STF Logistic which it claims has generated tens of millions of revenue for the Syrian government and through a 50-year contract with Damascus has been granted the right to almost three-quarters of sales revenue from Syrian mines near Palmyra. Grains Middle East Trading, and its chief executive officer Yafi David were sanctioned for serving as an intermediary for STF Logistic. The company is based in Switzerland and the United Arab Emirates.

Assad’s crackdown on protests in 2011 led to his global isolation, and his forces were accused of torture, bombing civilian infrastructure, and using chemical weapons with support of key allies Russia and Iran.


Chehayeb contributed from Beirut, Lebanon.

National News

Associated Press

Plane crash near Ohio airport kills 3; federal authorities investigating

VIENNA, Ohio (AP) — A plane trying to make an emergency landing at an airport in northeastern Ohio crashed, killing all three people aboard, authorities said. The Federal Aviation Administration said Saturday that the twin-engine Beechcraft 60 went down near the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport in Ohio at about 6:45 p.m. Friday. The Ohio State Highway […]

1 hour ago

Firefighters battle a fire at First Baptist Dallas church on Friday, July 19, 2024, in Dallas. (Chi...

Associated Press

A fire severely damages the historic First Baptist Dallas church sanctuary

A fire all but destroyed the historic church sanctuary at First Baptist Dallas, sending smoke billowing over the city but causing no deaths or injuries, Dallas firefighters said. The fire in the Texas Historic Landmark, a Victorian-style red brick church built in 1890, was reported about 6:30 p.m. Friday, and contained about three hours later, […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

New Hampshire Gov. Sununu signs bill banning transgender girls from girls’ sports

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — Republican Gov. Chris Sununu of New Hampshire has signed a bill that would ban transgender athletes in grades 5-12 from teams that align with their gender identity, adding the state to nearly half in the nation that adopted similar measures. The bill passed by the Republican-led Legislature would require schools to […]

3 hours ago

Associated Press

2024 Election Latest: Growing chorus of Democratic lawmakers call for Biden to drop reelection bid

A rapidly growing chorus of Democratic lawmakers called Friday for President Joe Biden to drop his reelection bid, even as the president insisted he’s read y to return to the campaign trail next week to counter what he called a “dark vision” laid out by Republican Donald Trump. As more Democratic members of Congress urged […]

4 hours ago

Jungle Cruise Skipper Gabriel Ramos keeps up the Jungle Cruise-style humor as he joins other Disney...

Associated Press

Disneyland workers authorize potential strike ahead of continued contract negotiations

NEW YORK (AP) — Thousands of workers at Disney’s theme park and resort properties in California voted late Friday to authorize a potential strike, as contract negotiations drag on. The strike authorization was approved by an overwhelming margin, nearly 99% of the members who cast votes according to a union statement. The election was held […]

4 hours ago

FILE - Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump is covered by U.S. Secret Se...

Associated Press

This is how Secret Service protection has changed for presidents over the years

WASHINGTON (AP) — During Abraham Lincoln’s presidency, anyone could come to the White House and see him. Come they did: mothers looking to have their sons released from military service, wives urging that their husbands be freed from prison after resisting the draft, others who simply wanted to meet the president. “Some only wanted comfort […]

5 hours ago

US imposes more Iran sanctions and hits Syrian regime with penalties for drug trafficking