The U.S. on Thursday slapped sanctions on Iran’s financial sector in a bid to shut the state terrorist sponsor out of the global financial system, hobbling its economy leading up to the U.S. presidential election.
The Trump administration’s latest round of sanctions blacklisted 18 Iranian banks.
The move comes a day before a United Nations arms embargo on the country is scheduled to expire. The UN in August rejected an American proposal to extend the embargo. The U.S. warned that if the embargo were not extended it could reimpose banking and other sanctions, which were lifted when the Obama-era nuclear deal went into effect.
The U.S. withdrew from the nuclear deal in 2018.
The U.S. will continue its campaign to squeeze the Iranian economy and limit Iran’s ability to export oil, which Tehran claims has impaired its ability to contain the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Our maximum economic pressure campaign will continue until Iran is willing to conclude a comprehensive negotiation that addresses the regime’s malign behavior,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement. “Our sanctions are directed at the regime and its corrupt officials that have used the wealth of the Iranian people to fuel a radical, revolutionary cause that has brought untold suffering across the Middle East and beyond.”
In March, just as the coronavirus outbreak was taking hold in the U.S., the administration slapped a separate round of sanctions on Iran and called on the country to release detained Americans after new rocket attacks were launched at U.S. forces in Iraq by what are believed to be Iran-backed forces.
“Our sanctions programs will continue until Iran stops its support of terrorist activities and ends its nuclear program,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Thursday.
Iran Foreign Minister Javad Zarif condemned the fresh round of financial sanctions.
“Amid Covid19 pandemic, U.S. regime wants to blow up our remaining channels to pay for food & medicine,” Zarif said. “Culprits & enablers—who block our money—WILL face justice.”