The recent US sanctions on the Iraqi-based South Wealth Resources Company (SWRC) have shined a light on how Iranian-backed militias are continuing to receive arms legally despite sanctions. The SWRC, which was sanctioned for smuggling arms worth hundreds of millions of dollars to Iraqi militias linked to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), is just one of many Iraq-based companies circumventing US sanctions using legal cover.
IRGC-linked armed militias across the region have defied US sanctions by using a financial network consisting of hundreds of companies that claim to work in general trade, exchange, money transfer, agriculture, industry, and construction. According to the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), a non-partisan policy institute, there are at least 667 companies that are influenced by the IRGC, either through equity shares or positions on the board of directors.
How do these companies operate?
These companies follow all legal procedures required to operate, including licenses, registration, and official documents, a source that specializes in the affairs of Iraqi extremist groups and Islamic factions told Al Arabiya English. The companies are able to operate due to collusion between Iraqi politicians, security apparatuses, political parties, and the Central Bank. These Iraqi state institutions are under pressure from Abu Mahdi al-Mohandes, the commander of the Iranian-backed Popular Mobilization Units (PMUs) militias.
Despite the US freezing business activities and targeting boards of directors of numerous banks, financial institutions, and companies, dozens of other companies have been established legally under different names.
According to information obtained by Al Arabiya English, Al-Bilad Islamic Bank for Investment and Finance and its director Aras Habib Karim was able to circumvent sanctions by changing its name to Ataa and appointing a new board of directors. The US sanctions only obstructed the original bank’s name and director and were unable to stop the institution from laundering and money financing terrorism.
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