US Sanctions on the Iranian Intelligence Minister and Iran's Largest Charity

US Sanctions on the Iranian Intelligence Minister and Iran's Largest Charity
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Before leaving the White House, the Trump administration imposed sanctions on the Iranian Minister of Intelligence and a group of senior executives from the Islamic Revolution Mostazafan Foundation. Iran's minister of intelligence, Mahmoud Alavi, has been sanctioned for having played a central role in committing human rights abuses against the Iranian people, including during the November 2019 protests. New measures were also implemented against 50 entities and 9 top Iranian officials.

The Mostazafan Foundation (Bonyad-e Mostazafan), an Iranian charity, is affiliated with Beit-e Rahbari (Office of the Supreme Leader of Iran), which is included on the US sanctions list, and linked to the country's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and nearly a third of its 160 holdings. Bonyad-e Mostazafan is a non-profit organization that is legally neither a public nor a private company; rather, it is a non-commercial entity in which the government is prohibited from interfering with its activities. The US Treasury Department has deemed Bonyad-e Mostazafan a multibillion-dollar financial empire in key sectors of Iran’s economy, including finance, energy, construction, and mining. Furthermore, the bodies that have been added to OFAC's SDN List are all subsidiaries of Bonyad-e Mostazafan.

Under the new restrictions, individuals associated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) have also been targeted. Parviz Fattah, a former senior IRGC official who heads the Bonyad-e Mostazafan, is one of the blacklisted individuals. In addition to Mr. Fattah, Amir Mansour Borghei, Javad Ghana'at, and Khosro Mokhtari are other Bonyad officials who have been targeted by US sanctions. The Trump administration also added Heidar Abbaszadeh, commander of the Khuzestan police force, and Reza Papi, commander of the Mahshahr police force, for their role in gross human rights violations committed by Iranian security forces as well as other agents of Iranian regime oppression. In a tweet, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called the events in Mahshahr a "massacre" and said that "the Iranian government has massacred about 148 people in Mahshahr."

The sanctions are being levied as Iran's foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, a day before, urged the US to return to its obligations under the JCPOA agreement, stating that if the US meets its obligations as such under UNSCR 2231, Iran will fulfill its commitments under the JCPOA. "If the US then seeks to re-join the JCPOA, we're ready to negotiate terms for it to regain its ‘JCPOA Participant’ status", tweeted Zarif. Therefore, the new measures, pursuing more political than economic goals, will have a substantial impact on the relationship between the Iranian government and the next US administration. The sanctions will make it difficult to renegotiate talks on the US return to the JCPOA and will also place the Biden administration in a tough position to go back to the nuclear deal and other Iran-related issues.

Since accurate information on the economic activities of Bonyad-e Mostazafan is lacking, the impact of these restrictions on the economic activities of Bonyad is unclear. However, Parviz Fattah, the head the Bonyad-e Mostazafan, is mentioned as one of the possible presidential candidates in Iran's 2021 elections. While US sanctions against senior Iranian officials have the opposite effect, and sanctioned officials are referred to as the front-line defenders of the Islamic Republic regime, the sanctions against Parviz Fattah could facilitate the approval of his authority by the Guardian Council in next year’s upcoming elections.