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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 October 2018

US slaps terror designation on Iran-linked group in Bahrain

The designation is the latest Trump administration effort to increase pressure on Tehran 

The Al Ashtar Brigades have fought back against a crackdown by the Bahraini state and have claimed responsibility for a number of bombings and attacks in Bahrain.
The Al Ashtar Brigades have fought back against a crackdown by the Bahraini state and have claimed responsibility for a number of bombings and attacks in Bahrain.

The United States designated a Shiite militant group in Bahrain as a foreign terrorist organisation on Tuesday to ramp up pressure on Iran.

The Al-Ashtar Brigades are “yet another in a long line of Iranian-sponsored terrorists who kill on behalf of a corrupt regime,” Nathan Sales, the co-ordinator for counter-terrorism at the State Department, said in a statement, detailing the designation.

The militant group has carried out attacks in response to what it calls a government crackdown on a 2011 Shiite-led uprising. It has since claimed responsibility for a number of bombings and attacks in Bahrain, including two that killed police.

The designation, which prohibits Americans or US companies from doing business with the group, is the latest Trump government effort to increase pressure on Tehran after pulling out of the 2015 nuclear accord.

During a short trip to the United Arab Emirates on Tuesday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the US is on a mission to convince Iran its behaviour “is unacceptable and has a real high cost for them”.

Iran supports a number of armed groups across the Middle East including Hezbollah in Lebanon, armed forces propping up Syrian President Bashar Al Assad, and powerful armed groups in Iraq who fought against ISIS there.

The US is preparing to re-introduce sanctions on Iran later this year including secondary sanctions aimed at severely restricting the country’s ability to export oil. In turn, Iran has threatened to disrupt Mideast oil supplies.

The Trump government has targeted the al-Ashtar Brigades with sanctions before. In March 2017, the State Department blacklisted two individuals affiliated with the group, Ahmad Hasan Yusuf and Alsayed Murtadha Majeed Ramadhan Alawi.