WASHINGTON — The Obama administration unveiled a host of new sanctions Friday against more than 30 companies and individuals doing business in or with Iran, seeking to thwart that nation’s nuclear ambitions, its support for organizations the United States deems as terrorist groups and mute its support for the embattled regime of Syrian leader Bashar Assad.
“This action taken today sends a clear message to the international business community to keep up enforcement of all sanctions,” said a senior administration official, who briefed reporters on the actions on the White House-imposed condition of anonymity.
The administration has now sanctioned more than 61 companies and individuals in an effort to isolate Iran and squeeze its economy in hopes of getting it to the bargaining table and ending its ambitions to have its own nuclear arsenal.
The sanctions come at a period where the United States needs Iran’s help in trying to defeat the Islamic State_ a violent radical group, known by the acronym ISIS, that is trying to establish a self-proclaimed caliphate in Iraq and Syria. Iran reportedly has positioned tanks in northern Iraq, and the United States has indirectly encouraged Iran to join the fight against ISIS.
“We’ve not said we’re going to cooperate with Iran,” said another administration official, insisting there have been no diplomatic talks with Iran about fighting ISIS. Rather, said the official, all parties in the region who are threatened by the rise of ISIS have been encouraged to take appropriate action.
Friday’s additions to the list include more banks, providers of equipment to Iran’s state oil company, banks that help to funnel U.S. currency to Iran’s central bank and transport-related businesses that have helped the Syrian and Iranian governments.
In a novel move, the Treasury Department sanctioned Asia Bank, formerly the Chemeximbank. It is accused of changing its name in order to facilitate the delivery of more than $13 million worth of U.S. banknotes from Russia into Iran. Asia bank has allegedly had a correspondent banking relationship since 2013 with the Export Development Bank of Iran, which was sanctioned back in October 2008. It was the first time a bank was targeted for supply U.S. banknotes to Iran.
“This designation should serve as a warning to banks, exchange houses and other financial institutions around the world,” said the first administration official.
Five other banks were also identified as being Iranian financial institutions, thus subjected to U.S. sanctions that effectively isolate them in much of the world. They are Khavarmianeh Bank, Ghavamin Bank, Gharzolhasaneh Resalat Bank, Kish International Bank and Kafolatbank, which is based in Tajikistan.
Air freight companies were also blacklisted Friday, including Meraj Air and Caspian Air. They were described as Iranian airlines that ferried cargo and/or personnel into Syria and elsewhere to help the Assad regime or terror groups. Also targeted were Turkey-based Pioneer Logistics and Thailand-based Asian Aviation Logistics, both for allegedly providing aircraft parts and materials to Mahan Air, a sanctioned Iranian airline.
U.S. authorities also struck out at Lissome Marine Services LLC in the United Arab Emirates, for facilitating ship-to-ship transfers of crude oil to skirt sanctions. Six Lissome-owned tankers were sanctioned: the Katerina1, Gas Camellia, Maria, Sun Ocean, Tess and NAMI. Three of those vessels are Panamanian-flagged ships while three are flagged in the Caribbean nation of St. Kitts and Nevis.