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US imposes sanctions on three Indian companies for aiding Iran's arms deliveries to Russia

According to the US Department of Treasury, the companies were involved in facilitating and financing the clandestine sale of Iranian unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to Russia’s war in Ukraine. The India-based companies have been sanctioned for aiding the Iranian military entity Sahara Thunder.

Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee Washington Updated on: April 25, 2024 23:41 IST
India, US, sanctions
Image Source : PTI Representational Image

Washington: The United States on Thursday imposed sanctions on a dozen companies, individuals and vessels, including three from India, for facilitating "illicit trade and UAV transfers" on behalf of the Iranian military amid skyrocketing tensions over Tehran's increasingly aggressive stance against Washington. The US has penalised Iran for support to non-state proxy groups like Hezbollah, Hamas, and Palestine Islamic Jihad, which it sees as terrorist organisations.

The US Department of Treasury said these companies, individuals and vessels have played a central role in facilitating and financing the clandestine sale of Iranian unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to Russia’s war in Ukraine. Iranian military entity Sahara Thunder has been identified as the main front company that oversees Iran’s commercial activities in support of these efforts. Russia has been accused of sourcing weapons from other sanctioned countries like North Korea and Iran to replenish its artillery requirements in Ukraine.

Which Indian companies have been sanctioned?

Additionally, the three India-based companies to have been slapped with sanctions for supporting Sahara Thunder are Zen Shipping, Port India Private Limited, and Sea Art Ship Management (OPC) Private Limited. Sahara Thunder relies on a vast shipping network involved in the sale and shipment of Iranian commodities on behalf of Iran’s Ministry of Defence and Armed Forces Logistics (MODAFL) to multiple jurisdictions including the People’s Republic of China (PRC), Russia, and Venezuela, the Treasury said.

“Sahara Thunder has entered into time-charter contracts with India-based Zen Shipping and Port India Private Limited for the Cook Islands-flagged vessel CHEM (IMO 9240914), which is managed and operated by UAE-based Safe Seas Ship Management FZE,” it said. “Sahara Thunder has used the CHEM to conduct multiple shipments of commodities since 2022. Iran-based Arsang Safe Trading Co. has provided ship management services in support of several Sahara Thunder-related shipments, including those by the CHEM."

“India-based Sea Art Ship Management (OPC) Private Limited and UAE-based company Trans Gulf Agency LLC have worked together to provide ship management services in support of Sahara Thunder. The UAE and Iran-based Coral Trading EST. have purchased Iranian commodities from Sahara Thunder,” it further said.

Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian E Nelson asserted that Iran is working on destabilising the region and the world by supporting Russia's war on Ukraine and the unprecedented attack on its arch-nemesis Israel earlier this month that raised fears of a wider war in the Middle East.

US warned Pakistan of sanctions for supporting Iran

Earlier on Tuesday, the US warned Pakistan of massive sanctions, if it considers any business deal with Iran. "Just let me say broadly, we advise anyone considering business deals with Iran to be aware of the potential risk of sanctions," Vedant Patel, Deputy Spokesperson of the US State Department. This came during Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi's visit to Pakistan.

It is worth mentioning Iran and Pakistan had signed a multi-billion dollar to build a gas pipeline in June 2009. Although Tehran had finished installing a 900 km pipeline on its side by 2011, Islamabad is yet to finish the project of installing 80 km on its side. After missing multiple deadlines, an annoyed Tehran warned Islamabad that it would drag it into the international court and also alerted to impose a fine of $18 billion. Although Pakistan has recently pledged to finish the project by September this year, it is unlikely Islamabad will complete it. 

The US and UK imposed a fresh round of sanctions on Iran in response to Tehran's unprecedented attack on Israel over the weekend, when it launched hundreds of drones and missiles in response to a suspected Israeli attack on the Iranian embassy in Syria on April 1. US Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control targeted 16 people and two entities in Iran that produce engines that power the drones used in the April 13 attack on Israel.

EU leaders have also vowed to ramp up sanctions on Iran, targeting its drone and missile deliveries to proxies in Gaza, Yemen and Lebanon. The bloc's foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said the existing EU sanctions regime would be strengthened and expanded to punish Tehran and help prevent future attacks on Israel. At the same time, he said, Israel needed to exercise restraint.

(with inputs from agencies)

ALSO READ | 'Raised matter with Iranian side': India after Pakistan, Iran mention Kashmir in joint statement

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