Iran deal implemented, new sanctions imposed
Washington - In a rare Sunday morning televised address, US President Barack Obama on January 17th hailed the progress his administration made in reducing tensions with Iran. The day before, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) declared that Iran had taken the required steps under the deal negotiated with world powers over its nuclear programme. As a result, a multitude of economic sanctions the international community had imposed on Iran were lifted.
Obama also announced the release of five Americans who, he said, were “unjustly” held in Iran. In exchange, Washington released six Iranian-Americans and one Iranian national being held and awaiting trial in the United States.
Finally, the president announced that the two countries had reached an agreement to settle a major claim Iran had against the United States involving money that the late shah’s government paid the United States for weapons that were never delivered because the Islamic revolution intervened. The United States is to repay the funds, with interest.
“This is a good day,” Obama said when he stepped up to the podium to begin his address touting these diplomatic accomplishments.
But he left one additional bit of news for the end of his 15-minute speech: The United States will be imposing new sanctions on Iran in response to a ballistic missile test the Islamic Republic conducted in October that breached a UN resolution prohibiting it from developing missiles that could potentially deliver nuclear warheads.
The new sanctions target 11 individuals and entities the Obama administration claims were involved in procurement on behalf of Iran’s ballistic missile programme. Many in Washington had expected the sanctions to be imposed but administration sources say that they were delayed to ensure that the nuclear agreement and prisoner exchange took place.
One of the sanctioned entities is UAE-based Mabrooka Trading Company. According to the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Asset Controls (OFAC) — the government office that imposes and monitors compliance with economic sanctions — named the company because Mabrooka “and its China- and UAE-based network that have been involved in procuring goods for Iran’s ballistic missile programme”. According to OFAC, “This network obfuscated the end user of sensitive goods for missile proliferation by using front companies in third countries to deceive foreign suppliers.”
Another UAE-based company, Candid General Trading, as well as a Hong Kong-based firm, Anhui Land Group, also were sanctioned. Both were suppliers to Mabrooka Trading Company. OFAC additionally imposed sanctions on Mabrooka Chief Executive Officer Hossein Pournaghshband and on one Chinese and five Iranian nationals.
In announcing the sanctions, Adam J. Szubin, acting undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said: “Iran’s ballistic missile programme poses a significant threat to regional and global security and it will continue to be subject to international sanctions.”
Szubin added that the nuclear agreement does not bring an end to US scrutiny of Iranian behaviour: “We have consistently made clear that the United States will vigorously press sanctions against Iranian activities outside of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action — including those related to Iran’s support for terrorism, regional destabilisation, human rights abuses and ballistic missile programme.”
Not surprisingly, Iran was not happy with the new sanctions. The Iranian Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying: “The Islamic Republic will respond to these aggravating and propagandistic measures by pursuing its legal missile programme stronger than before and developing its defensive capabilities.”
Insisting that Iran’s missile programme is designed only for conventional payloads, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hossein Jaberi Ansari said: “US sanctions against Iran’s ballistic missile programme… have no legal or moral legitimacy”.