The Latest U.S. Sanctions Against Iran

The Treasury Department’s action is related to the Islamic republic’s ballistic-missile program.

A ballistic missile is launched and tested at an undisclosed location in Iran on March 9, 2016.
A ballistic missile is launched and tested at an undisclosed location in Iran on March 9, 2016.  (Mahmood Hosseini / TIMA / Reuters )

The U.S. Treasury Department slapped new sanctions on Iran related to its ballistic-missile program, a day after President Trump certified that the Islamic republic was in compliance with the nuclear deal signed in 2015.

The Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated 16 entities and individuals for what it said was “engaging in support of illicit Iranian actors or transnational criminal activity.”

The sanctions target seven entities and five individuals for supporting Iran’s military or the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC); also targeted: an Iran-based transnational criminal organization and three associated persons. Those targeted include a Chinese national, four Chinese companies, and a Turkish firm. Iran’s testing and development of ballistic missiles, the U.S. State Department said in a separate statement, is “in direct defiance of UN Security Council Resolution 2231,” which endorsed the nuclear agreement.

Here’s more from the Treasury’s statement:

The three networks designated today supported Iran’s military procurement or the IRGC through the development of unmanned aerial vehicles and military equipment for the IRGC, the production and maintenance of fast attack boats for the IRGC-Navy, or the procurement of electronic components for entities that support Iran’s military.  The transnational criminal organization designated today, along with two Iranian businessmen and an associated entity, orchestrated the theft of U.S. and western software programs which, at times, were sold to the Government of Iran.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the actions “send a strong signal that the United States cannot and will not tolerate Iran’s provocative and destabilizing behavior.”

The move comes a day after Trump certified that Iran was complying with the nuclear agreement it signed with the U.S. and other world powers. Trump, as a presidential candidate, had called the deal “the worst” ever and had vowed to walk away from it. Under the law, the administration must inform Congress every 90 days whether Iran is still complying with the agreement, under which it agreed to freeze its nuclear program in return for the lifting of some international sanctions. This is the second time the Trump administration has certified that Iran is in compliance.

The New York Times reported the president was reluctant to take Monday’s action and told aides he would not continue to make the certification indefinitely. Bloomberg View’s Eli Lake added that just as Rex Tillerson, the U.S. secretary of state, “was preparing to inform Congress on Monday that Iran remained in compliance with what is known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, Trump called it off, according to administration officials. He wanted to know his options and what would happen if Tillerson didn’t make the announcement. … Eventually, Trump walked back from the ledge, and the administration certified Tehran's compliance.”

Tuesday’s action by the Trump administration suggests that even if the U.S. certifies that Iran is compliant with the nuclear deal, Tehran is still on notice for its other activities. In a separate statement, the U.S. State Department said that while the JCPOA was intended to “‘positively contribute to regional and international peace and security’ … Iran’s other malign activities are serving to undercut whatever ‘positive contributions’ to regional and international peace and security were intended to emerge from the JCPOA.”

The U.S. and its regional allies in the Middle East have long worried about Iran’s influence in Iraq; as well as its actions in Syria, where it supports President Bashar al-Assad; its backing of Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shia movement; its role in the Yemeni civil war, where Tehran is engaged in a proxy war with its main rival, Saudi Arabia; and its influence over Shia minorities throughout the majority-Sunni Arab world.