US to declare Iran’s Revolutionary Guards as terrorist group

Washington: The United States will designate Iran’s Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist organisation, an unprecedented move that would ramp up pressure on the elite force, The Wall Street Journal reported Friday. The newspaper, quoting unnamed officials, said President Donald Trump’s administration would announce the long-mulled decision as soon as Monday and that concerned defense officials were bracing for the impact. The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp was formed after the 1979 Islamic revolution with a mission to defend the clerical regime, in contrast to more traditional military units that protect borders.

The Revolutionary Guards have amassed strong power within Iran, including with significant economic interests. The Guards’ prized unit is the Quds Force, named for the Arabic word for Jerusalem, which supports forces allied with Iran around the region including Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Lebanon’s Hezbollah. The Trump administration has already imposed sweeping sanctions on Iran after withdrawing last year from an international agreement under which Tehran drastically scaled back its nuclear program. A foreign terrorist designation would make any activities of the group toxic for the United States, with any transactions involving US institutions or individuals subject to punishment.

US adds oil-sector firms, ships to Venezuela sanctions list
The US on Friday added two companies involved in shipping oil from Venezuela to Cuba, along with nearly three dozen ships, to a financial sanctions list aimed at increasing pressure on Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro to step down and turn over power to the opposition. A Treasury Department statement announcing the designation identified one of the companies as Ballito Bay Shipping Inc., based in Monrovia, Liberia. It is the registered owner of the Despina Andrianna, which has been used in recent weeks to ship Venezuelan crude to Cuba. The other company is ProPer Management Inc., which is based in Greece and is the operator of the Despina Andrianna, Treasury said. uba is a major importer of crude oil from Venezuela and, in exchange, sends political advisers, intelligence and military officials and medical professionals who help the Maduro government stay in power, Treasury said.

Pompeo says Trump resort arrest shows  China’s threat
The arrest of a Chinese woman who allegedly brought malicious software to President Trump’s Florida resort shows Beijing poses a threat, secy of state Mike Pompeo said on Friday. Zhang Yujing was arrested last week at Mar-a-Lago, where Trump was on one of his frequent visits, after attempting to enter while carrying multiple mobile phones and a thumb drive containing malware, according to court documents. “I think this tells the American people the threat that China poses, the efforts that they’re making here inside the US not only against govt officials, but more broadly,” Pompeo told CBS News. “The theft of American intellectual property is a big business to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars, and President Trump is determined to push back against it,” he said.

He was referring to ongoing trade talks in which the United States is pressing China to take action to protect intellectual property.  Pompeo said the administration was looking closely at the arrest but declined further comment, saying the investigation was ongoing. There has been no evidence presented publicly that Zhang was sent by the Chinese government, although Beijing says it is providing consular assistance. Zhang was accused of making false statements to federal officers after first claiming to be a member who wanted to use the pool, and then saying she was attending a non-existent Chinese-American friendship event.

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