The United States on Thursday announced more sanctions against people and firms associated with Iran and with what it said was an illicit banking network used to conceal transactions.
The U.S. said it placed the penalties on 39 firms linked to a shadow banking system that helped to obfuscate financial activity between sanctioned Iranian firms and their foreign buyers, namely for petrochemicals produced in Iran.
The Treasury Department said the companies — from Hong Kong to the United Arab Emirates — made up a “significant ‘shadow banking’ network” that gave cover to sanctioned Iranian entities to disguise petrochemical sales with foreign customers.
“Today’s action demonstrates the United States’ commitment to enforcing our sanctions and our ability to disrupt Iran’s foreign financial networks, which it uses to launder funds,” Treasury Deputy Secretary Wally Adeyemo said.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a written statement that the U.S. “will continue to disrupt attempts to evade U.S. sanctions.”
Also included in the Thursday announcement is a set of financial penalties on a China-based network of firms and one person accused of being responsible for the sale and shipment of thousands of drone components to Iran.
Iran is accused of supplying Russia with drones that are used to bomb Ukrainian civilians as the Kremlin continues its invasion of Ukraine.
Among other things, the sanctions deny the people and firms access to any property or financial assets held in the U.S. and prevent U.S. companies and citizens from doing business with them.
The sanctions come one day after Iranian prison officials and others were hit with sanctions over the treatment of young women and girls.
Tensions between the U.S. and Iran are high amid months of anti-government protests in Iran and Western anger at Iran’s export of attack drones to Russian forces fighting in Ukraine.
The United States has imposed sanctions on Iran’s shadow banking system as part of its efforts to “counter the Iranian regime’s malign activities,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Tuesday.
The sanctions, which target Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and its affiliated networks, are aimed at disrupting attempts by Tehran to evade U.S. and international sanctions through the use of complex financial instruments.
“The Iranian regime uses its central bank and a network of front companies to hide its illicit financial activities, using funds generated by illicit activities, such as drug trafficking and support for terrorism, to continue to fund its efforts,” Pompeo said in a statement.
In addition to targeting Iran’s tightly-controlled banking system, the sanctions also cover a drone network used by the IRGC to gather intelligence for the Iranian regime.
The sanctions are intended to “confront the full range of the Iranian regime’s malign activities, including its support for terrorist groups like Hezbollah, its support for the Assad regime in Syria, its increasingly provocative actions in the Middle East, and its development of increasingly sophisticated weapons systems,” Pompeo said.
These sanctions come amid escalating tensions between the U.S. and Iran, which have been in a dispute over the country’s nuclear program. Iran has long maintained that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes, while the U.S. and its allies have accused Tehran of seeking to acquire a nuclear weapon.
The Trump administration has imposed increasingly stringent sanctions on Iran in recent months, culminating in a complete embargo on Iranian oil exports.
The latest sanctions are part of a broader U.S. strategy to counter Iran’s “malign activities” in the region and its attempt to evade U.S. and international sanctions. The sanctions also serve as a warning to other countries against engaging in similar activities with the Iranian regime.