By Jamie Crawford
The United States imposed sanctions Wednesday on a senior member of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Qods Force and designated him as a narcotics trafficker, the first such designation of an Iranian official.
Gen. Gholamreza Baghbani, the current chief of the ICRG-QF office in Zahedan, Iran, has allowed Afghan narcotics traffickers to smuggle opiates through his zone of operations in exchange for money, the U.S. Treasury Department said in a statement.
Zahedan is located in the southeastern part of Iran near the borders of Afghanistan and Pakistan.
"Today's action exposes IRGC-QF involvement in trafficking narcotics, made doubly reprehensible here because it is done as part of a broader scheme to support terrorism. Treasury will continue exposing narcotics traffickers and terrorist supporters wherever they operate," said Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David S. Cohen.
Afghan traffickers moved weapons to the Taliban on Baghbani's behalf in return for the opening of routes in Iran that allowed heroin processing chemicals to come across the Iranian border, the Treasury Department said. Baghbani has also helped facilitate the shipment of opium into Iran, the statement said.
Baghbani was designated under the so-called Kingpin Act, which seeks to target the financial networks of significant narcotics traffickers. More than 1,000 individuals have been designated by Treasury through the act since 2000.
All U.S. citizens are prohibited from conducting financial or commercial transactions with Baghbani as a result of the designation, and all of his assets under U.S. jurisdiction are also frozen.