US imposes sanctions on Turkish businessman for oil sales for Iran

QAMISHLI, Syria (North Press) – US administration imposed on Thursday sanctions on a prominent Turkish businessman, Sitki Ayhan, accusing him of facilitating oil sales and money laundering on behalf of Iranian-backed militia.   

Reuters reported that Ayhan, who owns a network of companies, has set up international sales contracts for Iranian oil, arranged shipments and helped launder the proceeds and obscured the origin of the Iranian oil on behalf of Iran’s Quds Force, the US Department of the Treasury said in a statement first reported by Reuters.

The US sanctions come at a time of strained relations between the US and Turkey over the latter’s threats to invade northern Syria and attack the US partner in fighting ISIS – the Syrian Democratic Forces.

“Ayan has established business contracts to sell Iranian oil worth hundreds of millions of dollars to buyers,” in China, Europe and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the Treasury told the Reuters.

Ayan’s son Bahaddin Ayan, his associate Kasim Oztas and two other Turkish citizens involved in his business network are also designated, along with 26 companies, including his ASB Group, a Gibraltar-based holding company and a vessel, the Reuters added. 

Recently, the US had warned Turkey to refrain from a military incursion into northern Syria after Ankara announced it was preparing a possible ground invasion against the regions of the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES).

The AANES was first formed in 2014 in the Kurdish-majority regions of Afrin, Kobani and Jazira in northern Syria following the withdrawal of the government forces. Later, it was expanded to Manbij, Tabqa, Raqqa, Hasakah and Deir ez-Zor after the SDF defeated ISIS militarily there.

Turkey claims that the AANES and the SDF as “threaten its national security”. Under this pretext, it has launched three military incursions into the region; in 2016 it launched the so-called “Euphrates Shield” operation in which it occupied the cities of al-Bab and Jarablus in Aleppo eastern countryside, in 2018 it launched the so-called “Olive Branch” operation and occupied the Kurdish city of Afrin and its countryside, and in 2019 it launched the so-called “Peace Spring” operation through which it occupied the city of Tel Abyad in the north of Raqqa and the city of Sere Kaniye (Ras al-Ain) in the north of Hasakah.

Reporting by John Ahmad