By Heather Maher, RFE/RL
WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Treasury Department has announced a set of tough economic sanctions against Iran aimed at increasing the country's international isolation and persuading it to abandon its nuclear program and support for terrorism.
Iranian Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi has been named to the U.S. sanctions list.
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner announced the measures at a White House briefing on June , saying they represent the "first steps" by the United States to implement and build on the sanctions resolution passed last week by the UN Security Council:
"We are adding to our list of sanction entities a number of institutions and individuals who are helping Iran finance nuclear and missile programs and to evade international sanctions. Our actions today are designed to deter other governments and foreign financial institutions from dealing with these entities and thereby supporting Iran's illicit activities," Geithner said.
Defense Minister Named
The new measures prohibit U.S. transactions with the blacklisted entities and seek to freeze any assets they may have under U.S. jurisdiction.
Among the individuals sanctioned are Iranian Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi, Javad Karimi Sabet -- who has been linked to the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran -- and Mohammad Ali Jafari, who has been commander in chief of the Revolutionary Guards since September 2007.
Iran's Army and Guards commanders with Supreme Leader Khamenei
Iran's Post Bank has been designated as a proliferator of weapons of mass destruction and its inclusion now brings to 16 the number of Iranian-owned banks on the U.S. sanctions list.
The Treasury Department said Post Bank has been disguising international transactions for Bank Sepah, which was sanctioned in 2007.
Five 'front companies' for the state shipping line have been added in an attempt to stop Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines (IRISL) from evading previous sanctions by renaming vessels and moving them to new front companies. The U.S. also identified 90 ship names.
Also designated were the air force and missile commands of the Revolutionary Guard, which Geithner described as playing "a key role in Iran's missile programs and its support for terrorism," and 22 petroleum, energy, and insurance companies -- both inside and outside Iran -- owned or controlled by the Iranian government.
Geithner suggested that this is just the first round of economic penalties the U.S. plans to impose.
"In the coming weeks we will continue to increase the financial pressure on Iran. We will continue to target Iran's support for terrorist organizations. We will continue to focus on Iran's Revolutionary Guard. We will continue to expose Iran's efforts to evade international sanctions," he said.
Targeting 'Decision Makers'
Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Stuart Levey appeared with Geithner at the news conference and said that the U.S. measures -- coupled with a similar move expected Thursday from the EU -- would make Iran's choice "increasingly clear."
He said Tehran could "choose the path offered by President Obama and the international community or ... remain on a course that leads to further isolation."
Levey, who is the Treasury Department's architect of economic sanctions against Iran, predicted the new sanctions would send the country's leaders scrambling to find new ways to evade detection.
"We know that officials in Iran have been anxious about this new round of sanctions. If the Iranian government holds true to form it will scramble to identify workarounds: hiding behind front companies, doctoring wire transfers, falsifying shipping documents," he said. "We will continue to expose this deception, as we are today, and thereby reinforce the very reasons why the private sector around the world is increasingly shunning Iran.
At one point during the briefing, Levey was asked how the United States could be sure that the new measures wouldn't inadvertently punish the Iranian people.
"We have no problem or dispute with the people of Iran, quite the contrary," he replied. "It's the government of Iran and the decisions that they've made that we have a problem with. And we do try to focus our sanctions on the decision makers."
That means going after the Revolutionary Guard, he said, which "not only is engaged in illicit activity, but [is] taking economic opportunities" away from citizens.
"We're going after the people who are oppressing the people of Iran," he added. "Oppressing them politically and economically."
with agency reports
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