JERUSALEM, Israel – The United States on Thursday implemented sweeping new sanctions against Iran’s entire financial sector, striking another heavy blow to an economy already buckling under US sanctions.
The Trump administration’s move blacklists 18 Iranian banks and punishes non-Iranian financial institutions for doing business with the Islamic republic. Foreign companies that do business with Iran were given 45 days to stop their operations or face “secondary sanctions.” The new sanctions effectively sever Iran’s ties to the international financial system.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the sanctions are justified due to Iran’s “support of terrorist activities” and “nuclear programs.”
“Today’s action to identify the financial sector and sanction eighteen major Iranian banks reflects our commitment to stop illicit access to U.S. dollars,” Mnuchin said. “Today’s actions will continue to allow for humanitarian transactions to support the Iranian people.”
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif called the move a “crime against humanity” especially as it struggles to fight the coronavirus pandemic.
“Amid Covid19 pandemic, U.S. regime wants to blow up our remaining channels to pay for food & medicine,” he said in a tweet. “Iranians WILL survive this latest of cruelties. But conspiring to starve a population is a crime against humanity. Culprits & enablers — who block our money — WILL face justice.”
US officials insist they have provided avenues within the new measure to allow humanitarian aid to reach Iran.
The Trump administration has put constant pressure on Iran after the US abandoned the 2015 Iran nuclear deal in 2018.
The US announced in September that it had unilaterally restored all international sanctions that were lifted by the 2015 deal. The move drew ire from most members of the United Nations Security Council who argue the US is no longer entitled to restore international sanctions because it left the deal.
Some say the new sanctions destroy all hopes of salvaging the deal because they make it virtually impossible for Iranian banks to have financial relationships with foreign institutions.
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