This article by Ambassador Johnson was first published 20 November 2018 on The Telegraph website (registration required) entitled: U.S. sanctions target conspiracy between Iran, Syria, and Russia to keep Assad regime in oil.
Stopping the Iranian Regime’s Abuses
The United Kingdom has been a global leader in our shared efforts to tackle some of the world’s most difficult challenges. This includes international efforts to eradicate ISIS and bring an end to the crisis and suffering in Syria. The British military was one of the pre-eminent forces in the global coalition that helped dismantle ISIS. British humanitarian aid and developmental assistance have saved countless lives in the region. British diplomats have put serious pressure on the Syrian regime and opposition to come up with a lasting political solution.
But our work is not done. The Assad regime, with Iran and Russia’s help, continues to spread violence and instability across Syria. Throughout the Syrian Civil War, the Iranian regime and Russia have provided military and financial support to the brutal Assad regime, enabling it to commit the worst atrocities against the Syrian people. And Iran continues to fund terrorism throughout the region. It provides hundreds of millions of dollars to terrorist organizations such as Hamas and Hizballah, which further destabilizes the region.
That is why yesterday, the U.S Department of the Treasury sanctioned nine individuals and entities who, working with Russia, helped the Iranian regime provide millions of barrels of oil to the Assad government. These sanctions exposed a complex conspiracy between Iran, the Assad regime, and Russia to evade U.S. sanctions. The oil they send to Syria allows the regime to continue its violent campaign against the Syrian people. The profits from this illicit trade enriches terrorist groups, corrupt Iranian officials, and Russian, Iranian and Syrian war profiteers. They grow wealthy while Syrians die.
And the problem is not limited to Syria. The Iranian leadership also supports terrorism across the region. The violence and aggression they promote in Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen and Gaza continues unabated. Iran is also targeting Europe — just this summer an Iranian diplomat was arrested for helping terrorists plan to bomb a political rally in France. And in October, Danish Security forces arrested a man accused of working with the Iranian intelligence service to assassinate an Iranian opposition figure in Denmark.
Enough is enough. There is too much at stake to turn a blind eye as this rogue state keeps fostering violence and instability. We need tough action to finally get Iran to: stop fomenting terror and violence abroad, give up its nuclear ambitions, release innocent foreign nationals from its prisons, and improve its human rights record.
To be clear — we are NOT putting sanctions on food, or medical supplies. Regardless of what the Iranian regime claims, it has never been U.S. policy to target humanitarian trade. Our sanctions are intended to change the destructive and repressive behavior of the Iranian regime. The Iranian people know that the regime’s corruption and mismanagement are the cause of the poor state of Iran’s economy.
This week European countries announced proposed sanctions on Iranian intelligence officials suspected of plotting assassinations in EU Member States. This is a welcome step forward, but it does not go far enough. Under the Trump Administration, we have already imposed 20 rounds of tough sanctions against the Iranian leadership. We intend to aggressively enforce our sanctions and we will go after those who attempt to violate or circumvent them. We believe this type of sustained and targeted pressure is the most effective way to change Iran’s bad behavior. But for these policies to work, the world must be unified in saying no to Iran’s abuses.