Iran slams US sanctions on paramilitary group as ‘blind vindictiveness’
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Iran slams US sanctions on paramilitary group as ‘blind vindictiveness’

Country’s largest steel company, among those sanctioned, calls measures ‘nothing new’ and says they won’t impact its operations

In this file photo taken on September 21, 2012, Turkmen Basij militiamen take part in an annual military parade marking the Iran-Iraq war, in the Iranian capital Tehran. (Atta Kenare/AFP)
In this file photo taken on September 21, 2012, Turkmen Basij militiamen take part in an annual military parade marking the Iran-Iraq war, in the Iranian capital Tehran. (Atta Kenare/AFP)

TEHRAN, Iran (AFP) — Iran called new US sanctions against its paramilitary Basij group an act of “blind vindictiveness” on Wednesday.

“America’s new sanctions are a clear insult to international and legal mechanisms and a result of the American government’s blind vindictiveness against the Iranian nation,” said foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi.

He called Washington’s “lack of adherence to international legal mechanisms” a threat not only “to the Iranian people’s interests but also the world’s stability and security.”

On Tuesday, the US Treasury Department slapped sanctions on the Basij paramilitary group along with a network of more than 20 businesses it said had financial links to the organization.

The US pulled out of a landmark 2015 nuclear accord between Iran and six world powers in May and is reimposing punishing sanctions on the Middle Eastern country, hoping to pressure Tehran into what US President Donald Trump calls a “better deal.”

A model of Statue of Liberty with portraits of Britain’s former Prime Minister Tony Blair and Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir are displayed prior to being set on fire by demonstrators as a member of Iranian Basij paramilitary force stands at right during an annual pro-Palestinian rally marking Al-Quds (Jerusalem) Day in Tehran, Iran, on July 1, 2016. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)

Iran’s biggest steel company, among the companies sanctioned on Tuesday, dismissed the measures as “nothing new,” saying they will not affect its operations.

In a statement to investors, Mobarakeh Steel Company said: “International sanctions are nothing new and Mobarakeh has faced them throughout the years just like other sectors of the Iranian economy.

“This will not disrupt the company’s production, financial activities and exports,” it added.

‘Can’t stop exports’

Mobarakeh, the largest steelmaker in the Middle East and North Africa region, was accused of supporting the Mehr Eqtesad Iranian Investment Company, which is linked to Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, according to the US Treasury.

A steel industry expert in Tehran said the sanctions would hurt Mobarakeh, but without entirely stopping its exports.

“The company will now have problems doing anything, be it attracting financing from abroad or having any overseas accounts,” Mojtaba Fereydouni told AFP.

“But sanctions cannot just stop Iran’s exports. You just ship it to a third country, unload the shipments there and leave it for a few days. Then you reship them from there with no mention of Iran and a new certificate of origin.

“All this will incur a cost of $20-$30 on each ton, but it’s not impossible,” he added.

In this photo taken on May 31, 2012, an Iranian worker cuts a steel roll at the Mobarakeh Steel Complex, some 40 miles, 65 kilometers, southwest of central Iranian city of Isfahan. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

Iran’s steel industry was targeted under the first wave of US sanctions reimposed in August.

But Mobarakeh said it had indigenized its production line.

Fereydouni added that it had set up a factory to produce the key raw material of electrode graphite, which is normally imported, primarily from India.

Iran is the 10th biggest crude steel producer, according to the World Steel Association.

The government said it exported $2.53 billion of steel products between March and September, up 53 percent on the previous year — an increase which is thought to be driven by a rush by buyers to make purchase before sanctions hit.

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