President Barack Obama has announced two significant steps that strengthen U.S. and international efforts to pressure the Iranian government to address widely-held concerns about the nature of its nuclear program and to meet its international nuclear obligations.
First, a new Executive Order that imposes sanctions against the Iranian energy and petrochemical sectors is designed to prevent Iran from establishing payment mechanisms for the sales of its petroleum and petroleum-related products that would circumvent existing sanctions. In addition, measures already in place are further strengthened by making sanctionable the purchase or acquisition of Iranian petrochemical products. The goal is to prevent the Iranian government from accessing revenues for its nuclear and other proliferation activities.
Second, the U.S. Treasury Department imposed sanctions on Bank of Kunlun in China and Elaf Islamic Bank in Iraq, institutions “which have facilitated transactions worth millions of dollars on behalf of Iranian banks that are subject to sanctions for their links to Iran’s illicit proliferation activities.” In a statement, President Obama described these actions as “a significant step to hold responsible institutions that knowingly enable financial transactions for designated Iranian banks.”
These efforts by the U.S. and international community have taken a toll on Iran’s economy: oil exports are down; inflation is up; and the value of Iran’s currency has plummeted.
In a briefing on the new sanctions, Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes said the sanctions aim to sharpen the choice for the Iranian government. “They continue to have the choice, through the P5 + 1 negotiations, to come in line with their international obligations and to rejoin the community of nations,” he said. “We are once again sending a strong message to the Iranian government that they are going to face increasingly severe consequences for failing to meet those international obligations.”
Mr. Rhodes said there “still is time and space to pursue a diplomatic strategy” that allows the pressure being exerted on Iran to sink in, and gives Iran the opportunity to comply with its nuclear obligations, “while also making it clear that all options remain on the table for achieving the objective of preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.”