© Anna Moneymaker
The Trump administration on Tuesday announced new sanctions on a Middle East power — Iran.
With much of the world's focus on the wellbeing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, the administration is facing pressure to take action against Riyadh, its close ally in the Mideast.
But U.S. officials have yet to say how they plan to respond to Khashoggi's disappearance and apparent killing.
Instead, the Treasury Department rolled out financial penalties on a network of companies and banks that supports the paramilitary arm of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
The U.S. accuses the paramilitary group, the Basij Resistance Force, of recruiting and training child soldiers to fight in overseas conflicts, including the civil war in Syria.
"This vast network provides financial infrastructure to the Basij’s efforts to recruit, train and indoctrinate child soldiers who are coerced into combat under the IRGC’s direction," Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven MnuchinThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Biden jumps into frenzied Dem spending talks Former Treasury secretaries tried to resolve debt limit impasse in talks with McConnell, Yellen: report Menendez, Rubio ask Yellen to probe meatpacker JBS MORE said in a statement.
The multibillion dollar network includes shell companies that mask Basij's ownership of automotive, mining and metals corporations that have dealings in the Middle East and Europe and help fund their operations.
The Trump administration has applied increased financial pressure on Tehran after pulling out of the Iran nuclear agreement in the spring. Saudi Arabia is a key partner in the U.S. effort to isolate their mutual foe.
But Trump administration officials said that dynamic would not play a role in deciding what kind of penalties to levy on Riyadh in response to Khashoggi's disappearance.
"All of our regional partners are extremely important to that effort. The Saudis are one important component, but we have a range of them," said one senior administration official, who added "that doesn't mean we're ignoring all other issues" in the U.S-Saudi relationship.