The United States first levied sanctions against Iran's state shipping line, known as IRISL, in 2008 -- for providing support for Iran's illicit nuclear and ballistic missile programs. Since then, IRISL has engaged in a variety of deceptive practices to avoid those sanctions, including setting up front companies with new names, that support the same proliferation aims.
The U.S. Treasury Department recently announced new sanctions on 10 such shipping companies as well as on three individuals with ties to IRISL.
The targeted companies are based in the UAE, China, Britain and Singapore, and they include UAE-based Pacific Shipping; Singapore-based Leading Maritime, and British-based Fairway Shipping. The sanctions prohibit trade and authorize the freezing of assets of companies doing business with proliferators of weapons of mass destruction.
Adam Szubin, head of Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control, noted that past sanctions have already put pressure on IRISL, including the loss of insurance, default on loans, and the seizure of ships.
In a coordinated action, the District Attorney's Office of Manhattan indicted 11 companies and five individuals for their part in a conspiracy involving IRISL to avoid sanctions, and to move $60 million through banks based in New York.
Recently, then U.S. Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg noted that the purpose of sanctioning Iran "is to pressure it to comply with its international obligations:"
"We need to continue to keep the pressure on Iran. This clearly has an impact on their economy. At what point that will cause them to make different decisions, is obviously something we have to watch carefully."
"But it is a reason for us to make sure," said Mr. Steinberg, "that we ... continue to push this until and unless the Iranians take a different position."