The United States on September 21 slapped new sanctions against the Iranian Ministry of Defense and Venezuela’s Nicolás Maduro for his role in supporting the Tehran regime’s weapons program.
“Our actions today are a warning that should be heard worldwide: No matter who you are, if you violate the U.N. arms embargo on Iran, you risk sanctions,” U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said at a news conference announcing the restoration of sanctions on Iran.
The Maduro regime denounced the sanctions and said they would fail to prevent both countries from maintaining free economic and commercial relations.
“Venezuela rejects and denounces before the international community a new aggression on the part of the U.S. government, which announced, without any basis whatsoever, alleged unilateral sanctions […] as part of a sustained campaign of aggressions against […] Iran [and] Venezuela,” the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
Sanctions against Maduro, which were not detailed, come at a time when Venezuela’s ties to Iran have been strengthening and are suspected of extending to the military sector.
In mid-August, Colombian President Iván Duque, relying on international intelligence, accused Maduro of looking into buying medium and long-range missiles from Iran. “The information is that [the missiles] still haven’t arrived, but there are instructions from [Venezuela’s Defense Minister Vladimir] Padrino,” Duque said at a virtual event.
Maduro mocked the claim during a broadcast, and said that buying missiles from Iran would be “a good idea […] given the great relations we have with Iran.”
The Tehran regime has been coming to the rescue of the oil-starved country delivering 1.5 million barrels of fuel to Venezuela in May. In late April, Iran flew in components, technicians, and equipment through Iranian state-owned and U.S.-sanctioned Mahan Air to help resume production at Venezuelan refineries.
More recently, relations have extended to the retail grocery industry with the opening in Caracas of a supermarket by an Iranian military-owned conglomerate with ties to the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The new sanctions, which targeted 27 Iranian entities and people in the nuclear, missile, and conventional arms sector, were “futile” the Iranian Defense Ministry said in a statement.
The U.S. government is imposing sanctions against the Iranian Ministry of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics, its Defense Industries Organization, senior officials of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, as well as key producers and suppliers of military-grade, dual-use goods, for Iran’s ballistic missile program.
“The efforts today are to continue to reduce that risk that they [Iran] will have the wealth and resources to foment terror throughout the region and indeed throughout the world,” Pompeo said.