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Iran Accuses Saudi Arabia Of Joining U.S. Sanctions To Distract From Journalist Killing

Qasem Soleimani, head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps' Quds Force

A top Iranian commander is accusing Saudi Arabia of trying to distract from its killing of a prominent Saudi journalist in Istanbul by joining with the United States in a new round of sanctions on Iran.

"Saudi Arabia is in a quagmire it cannot easily come out of... Saudi rulers are trying to distract the world and the region from the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, the Saudi journalist, in their consulate in Turkey," Brigadier-General Esmail Kowsari, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps' deputy security chief in Tehran, was quoted as saying by Iran's Mehr news agency late on October 23.

“They should know that this crime cannot be washed away easily or by these methods,” Koswari said. "Saudi leaders should be held accountable for their actions."

His comments came after Saudi security services announced on October 23 that they were blacklisting Qasem Soleimani, commander of the guards' foreign military operations, known as the Quds Force, as well as the force's Hamed Abdollahi and Abdul Reza Shahlai.

The U.S. Treasury Department in 2011 accused Soleimani, Abdollahi, and Shahlai of being linked to a plot to assassinate Saudi Arabia's former ambassador to the United States, Adel Al-Jubeir, and imposed sanctions on them.

The Saudi move to sanction the Quds force officials came on the same day that the United States, Saudi Arabia, and five other Persian Gulf countries announced they had blacklisted several Iranians they said were associated with Afghanistan’s Taliban, including two Quds force officers and other Iranians who “facilitated Iranian support to bolster the terrorist group.”

The two Quds force officers named in the U.S. announcement were Mohammad Ebrahim Owhadi and Esmail Razavi.

The joint announcement was made by the U.S.-led Terrorist Financing Targeting Center, which besides Washington and Riyadh includes Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates.

The announcement by the U.S. Treasury Department said the blacklisting move aimed to “expose and disrupt the Taliban…and their Iranian sponsors that seek to undermine the security of the Afghan government.”

“We are also targeting key Iranian sponsors providing financial and material support to the Taliban,” U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said.

“Iran’s provision of military training, financing, and weapons to the Taliban is yet another example of Tehran’s blatant regional meddling and support for terrorism.”

Mnuchin said Iran’s support for the Taliban “epitomizes the regime’s utter disregard for fundamental international norms.”

He said the blacklist also targets “Taliban members who are involved in suicide attacks, and other lethal activities.”

The assets of those targeted on the blacklist will be frozen in the United States and the six Gulf states that joined in the sanctions.

Six senior members of the Afghan Taliban were included on the blacklist: Abdullah Samad Faroqui, Mohammad Daoud Muzzamil, Abdul Rahim Manan, Naim Barich, Sadr Ibrahim, and Hafiz Majid.

Also blacklisted was a Pakistani businessman, Abdul Aziz, who the U.S. Treasury described as “a Pakistan-based narcotics trafficker” who allegedly set up international firms to carry out illegal smuggling operations to finance Taliban militants based in Pakistan, including the Quetta-based leadership of the Afghan Taliban known as the Quetta Shura.

With reporting by Reuters and AP