WASHINGTON – The US is further tightening the screws on its sanctions regime
against Iran, the US Departments of State and Treasury announced on
“Iran’s efforts to use deceptive practices and front companies
to further its nuclear program” required new action, the departments explained
in a joint statement.
Action from the Obama administration comes just as
a key group of bipartisan senators prepared finishing touches on a new sanctions
bill against Iran, which would go into effect should six months pass without a
On Monday, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad
Javad Zarif warned such a bill would nullify the interim deal on his country’s
nuclear program, forged last month in Geneva.
Senate Foreign Relations
Committee chairman Robert Menendez, ranking members Bob Corker and Mark Kirk,
among others, fear that the interim deal reached last month between Iran and the
P5+1 – the US, United Kingdom, France, Russia, China and Germany – will
crystallize into a new status quo.
The agreement freezes, but does not
dismantle, Iran’s nuclear program, in exchange for modest sanctions
“It’s still in the oven,” said one Senate aide, familiar with the
bill, saying that the timing and strategy for a vote remain uncertain. “It’s
possible it could happen fast, [and] possible it may take a bit of
The new enforcement measures announced Thursday include over a
dozen designations of companies located across the world, including in
Singapore, Cyprus and Iran.
Any assets between the companies listed and
Iran that have come under US jurisdiction have been frozen.
A series of
companies listed violate an executive order, signed by US President Barack
Obama, that targets individuals, firms, and financial institutions involved in
or linked to Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
A group of
firms evading existing sanctions – primarily the shipment of crude oil – include
Vitaly Sokolenko, Ferland Company Limited, Siqiriya Maritime, Singa Tankers and
Mid Oil Asia.
“The Joint Plan of Action reached in Geneva does not, and
will not, interfere with our continued efforts to expose and disrupt those
supporting Iran’s nuclear program or seeking to evade our sanctions,” said Under
Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David
Cohen listed the existing executive orders that have
been violated as E.O. 13645 and E.O. 13382, and noted that the companies in
violation have been added to a list of sanctions-evaders consistent with
practice under existing laws.
“Today’s actions should be a stark reminder
to businesses, banks and brokers everywhere that we will continue relentlessly
to enforce our sanctions,” Cohen said, “even as we explore the possibility of a
long-term, comprehensive resolution of our concerns with Iran’s nuclear
Zarif said such a move from Congress would render the interim
agreement “entirely dead.”
In the Joint Plan of Action signed in Geneva
on November 24, one provision of the deal outlines consent by the White House –
on behalf of the entire US government – that “the US administration, acting
consistent with the respective roles of the president and the congress, will
refrain from imposing new nuclear-related sanctions.”
“There’s a very
clear distinction” between new sanctions legislation and stricter enforcement of
existing sanctions, and the Iranians understand that, the senior administration
Key senators are still negotiating the new bill, which
aims to bring Iranian crude exports down by at least half its current figure –
roughly 1 million barrels per day.
Senate leaders vow to respect the
six-month time frame built into the Geneva deal.
A source close to the
negotiations told The Jerusalem Post that, with forceful push-back from the
White House against any new legislation, the situation over a vote remains a
“fluid situation” as congress prepares to recess for the holidays.
Banking Committee chairman Tim Johnson has crafted a similar sanctions bill that
would move through his committee “quickly,” his office says, should Iran violate
the interim deal or should negotiations flounder.
Responding to his
colleagues, including Menendez, Kirk, Corker, Chuck Schumer and John McCain,
Johnson said that passing a bill now would be a “counterproductive” move that
might “shatter Western unity on this issue.”