The United States has imposed a new round of sanctions on the Iranian financial industry as the Trump administration increases pressure on Tehran.
The new measures, announced by the Treasury Department on Thursday afternoon, were aimed at 18 large Iranian banks that were previously not subject to US restrictions. The measures were largely taken under the broad authority of an executive order signed by President Donald Trump that allowed the US to target all institutions in the already crippled Iranian financial sector.
“Our sanctions programs will continue until Iran stops supporting terrorist activities and terminates its nuclear programs,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement. “Today’s measures will continue to enable humanitarian transactions in support of the Iranian people.”
The Washington Post first reported on the US plan aimed at excluding Iran from the global financial sector.
Since the US decision to leave the Iranian nuclear deal in May 2018, the re-imposed sanctions have had dire consequences for Iran, whose currency fell to a new low against the US dollar last month.
Iranian oil exports fell to record lows in May as the coronavirus pandemic compounded the impact of U.S. sanctions, which were already restricting supplies. Iran also suffers from a severe shortage of supplies to fight the COVID-19 virus, with 3,000 new COVID-19 cases per day and 27,000 deaths.
Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif accused the United States of having committed a “crime against humanity” and warned of the consequences.
“Amid the Covid19 pandemic, the US regime wants to blow up our remaining channels to pay for food and medicine. The Iranians will survive this recent atrocity. But the conspiracy to starve a population is a crime against humanity. Guilty and Enablers – who block our money – WILL be brought to justice, “he tweeted.
The new measures come after the US “reversed” virtually all United Nations sanctions against Iran last month despite being isolated on the world stage after other great powers rejected Washington’s unilateral move.
As part of this resumption, the United States proposed measures against the Iranian Defense Department and others involved in its weapons and nuclear programs.
In the same week, Washington also blacklisted several Iranian officials and organizations for alleged serious human rights abuses, including sanctioning a judge involved in the case of a death row Iranian wrestler.
Trump’s tough stance on Iran was one of the hallmarks of his presidency. Tensions between Washington and Tehran have increased since it unilaterally pulled the US out of a nuclear deal with Iran in 2018 and reinstated sanctions.
In the agreement signed by President Barack Obama in 2015, Tehran restricted its nuclear activities in return for easing sanctions. However, the Trump administration has claimed that the deal barely restricted Iran’s other activities in the region that threatened American security interests.
Last month, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani accused the US of inflicting $ 150 billion in damage to Iran due to sanctions since 2018.
The government has consistently denied developing nuclear weapons and has insisted that its nuclear program be for peaceful purposes.
US-Iran relations were hit again when a powerful Iranian military leader was killed in a US air strike in January. After the strike, Iran said it was ending its commitment to limit uranium enrichment under the nuclear deal.
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The US said it last month planned to impose sanctions on those violating a United States arms embargo on Iran, which Washington said will now stay in place rather than expire in October just before the November 3 elections as agreed under the nuclear deal.
The Security Council of the United States of America resolutely rejected a US resolution to extend the embargo indefinitely in August.
The aftermath of US sanctions has crippled the Iranian economy, and the coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated the country’s economic problems. The currency fell to new lows against the US dollar last month.
Iranian oil exports fell to record lows in May as the pandemic compounded the impact of U.S. sanctions, which were already limiting supplies.