The U.S. imposed sanctions Tuesday on a network of businesses that is said to support an Iranian paramilitary force that allegedly trains and deploys child soldiers to fight with Iran's powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
The network of at least 20 businesses, known as Basij Cooperative Foundation, creates shell companies to hide its ownership and control of multibillion-dollar entities that are "deeply entrenched" in Iran's automotive, mining, metals and banking industries, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said.
"This vast network provides financial infrastructure to the Basij's efforts to recruit, train and indoctrinate child soldiers who are coerced into combat under IRGC's direction," Mnuchin said.
The sanctions are a continuation of a U.S. economic crackdown on Iran to pressure the country to discontinue its campaign of aggression and human rights violations in the region.
The sanctions prohibit Americans from conducting business with the network or its affiliates. They also froze assets the network has under U.S. jurisdiction.
The Treasury Department said the sanctions were imposed on Bank Mellat, Mehr Eqtesad Bank, Mehr Eqtesad Iranian Investment Co. and five other investment firms. They also target Iran Tractor Manufacturing Co., the Middle East's largest tractor manufacturer, and Esfahan's Mobarakeh Steel Co., the largest steelmaker in the Middle East and North Africa region.