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Who was punished by Washington in Iraq…and why?

The conflict between Washington and Tehran within Iraq takes many forms. This includes US forces conducting attacks on the bases of armed groups and sanctions targeting individuals associated with these groups.

The U.S. Treasury Department recently imposed sanctions on a company and four Iraqi figures in the wake of “suspicious activities” led by armed groups that Washington says are “fueling the activities of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps in Iraq and Syria.”

Sanctions include Fly Baghdad Airlines and its CEO Bashir Abdel Khadim Alwan Al-Shabani.

The US State Department said, “It has sanctioned the airline and al-Shabani for their support of the Iran-allied Quds Force and militias in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. We have designated both aircraft registered in Iraq and owned by Fly Baghdad.” Forbidden.

Weapons and money

The US Treasury said, “Iraqi Hezbollah brigades used aircraft to transport fighters, weapons and money in support of the Syrian regime to Syria and Lebanon.”

On several occasions, according to the U.S. Treasury, Hezbollah leaders operated “fly Baghdad” flights to transport bags of U.S. currency and U.S.-made weapons collected from battlefield Iraq to Lebanon.

Low-cost carrier Fly Baghdad has long come under fire from Iraqi travelers for “poor service, disruption of its flights and failure to meet its announced schedule,” with many calling on the aviation authority. Stop acting.

Digital platforms circulated several video clips of Iraqi passengers stuck on a “Fly Baghdad” flight due to long delays.

After the U.S. sanctions were issued, the Civil Aviation Authority said in a press release to local media that the airline “is currently continuing to operate while awaiting new information from the Treasury Department.”

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Commenting on the US decision, Fly Baghdad said, “The sanctions are not based on any material evidence and rely on false information.”

The company is “under the direct supervision of the Iraqi government, represented by the Iraqi Civil Aviation Authority and the Ministry of Transport,” the company said in a news release issued Monday night.

The airline, which offers flights to Beirut, Damascus, Aleppo and Dubai, as well as Tehran, Bombay and Istanbul, confirmed that its flights “continue as usual and have not been suspended for any reason”.

Fly Baghdad says it will continue its flights regardless of the decision (AFP)

Mysterious Wall

A wall of mystery surrounds the companies owned by Fly Baghdad, but an informed source told Asharq al-Awsad that the conglomerate structure is “owned by two businessman brothers after buying the stake of other partners linked to one of the Shiite parties”.

He adds, “Bashir al-Gharavi was the first director of the board of directors. He is the brother of Jawad al-Gharavi, a former member of the board of directors of Najaf Airport and a defector from the Sadrist movement. A share of the company's shares.”

Allegations of corruption in Iraq are difficult to verify, and journalists face serious difficulties tracking the vast network of names on corruption lists that are not subject to due process investigations.

An Iraqi Airways travel agent told Asharq Al-Awsad that “the company can resume its flights by requesting a different flight route.”

The travel agent says, “Fly Baghdad has a fleet of aircraft with a reach of more than 20 flights, and grounding it would cause significant damage to the movement of people and goods.”

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Hezbollah brigades are three

At the same time, the US Treasury Department imposed new sanctions on Hezbollah's “three leaders and supporters”.

These sanctions include freezing the assets of companies and organizations in the United States in whole or in part and preventing them from conducting business transactions in and out of the country.

The sanctions coincide with continued tensions between Washington's ally Israel and the Iran-backed Palestinian Hamas movement in the aftermath of the war in Gaza.

Since mid-October, more than 140 attacks have targeted US soldiers and the “international coalition in Iraq and Syria,” and a group calling itself the “Islamic Resistance in Iraq” has claimed responsibility for most of these attacks.

Among the sanctions are Hussein Muniz, a representative of the “Hezbollah Brigade” and Aqad al-Hamidawi, director of the “Ard al-Musal Company”. Brigades”, Abu Husayn al-Hamidawi.

Photo released by MP Hussain Muniz (right) during a funeral procession for those killed in the Al-Nujaba movement earlier this month.

The decision also includes Riyad al-Azzawi, a man linked to the operation of “Kattayib Hezbollah” whose fingerprints were found on an Iranian missile launched near US forces in Iraq in 2021.

The US ambassador to Iraq, Elena Romanowski, said the decision “reaffirms the United States' resolve to confront the ongoing threat posed by Iran's Revolutionary Guard and its loyalist network in Iraq”.

“Iran's use of an Iraqi airline to smuggle weapons, fighters and US dollars represents a flagrant violation of Iraq's sovereignty,” it said.

In response to the sanctions, Hasan Salem, a representative of the “Asayib Ahl al-Haq” constituency, said the US sanctions on the “Falange” and “Fly Baghdad” company “are worthless, reveal failure and confusion, and the “Al-Nujaba Movement” described the decision as “empty content”. .

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According to the U.S. Treasury, the decision “will bar all property and interest in designated persons' property located in the United States or owned or controlled by U.S. persons.”

It warned companies and individuals engaging in certain transactions or activities with sanctioned companies and individuals of potential sanctions.

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