Iran Nuclear NewsU.S. Announces actions to enforce Iran sanctions

U.S. Announces actions to enforce Iran sanctions


New York Times: The United States government escalated enforcement of its Iran sanctions on Tuesday, adding eight Chinese companies, a Dubai company and two Dubai-based executives to blacklists for evading American restrictions on Iranian weapons, oil and banking transactions.


The New York Times

By Rick Gladstone

The United States government escalated enforcement of its Iran sanctions on Tuesday, adding eight Chinese companies, a Dubai company and two Dubai-based executives to blacklists for evading American restrictions on Iranian weapons, oil and banking transactions.

In coordinated announcements of the actions by the Treasury, State and Justice Departments, the government also offered a $5 million bounty for information leading to the arrest or conviction of Li Fangwei, a Chinese businessman also known as Karl Lee, a previous sanctions target, who is accused of abetting Iranian weapons procurement.

The announcements said that he owned the eight Chinese companies and that he had been charged in a previously sealed indictment with several federal offenses, including conspiracy to commit money laundering, bank fraud and wire fraud.

The announcements signaled the first significant enforcement of American sanctions directed at Iran in about three months, and seemed aimed at dispelling what Obama administration officials have called a misimpression that economic relations with Iran are moving toward normalization.

Despite a modest thaw between Iran and the United States, including a temporary accord on Iran’s disputed nuclear program that eased some sanctions while negotiators attempt to reach a permanent agreement, administration officials have emphasized that most restraints on dealings with Iran remain in place.

“These actions are intended to deter future sanctions evasion and prevent Iran from procuring sensitive technologies while we negotiate a comprehensive solution that will prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon and ensures its nuclear program is exclusively peaceful,” the Treasury announcement stated.

There was no immediate reaction from Iran, which regards the sanctions as arrogant bullying by the United States and other Western powers.

The eight Chinese companies were described as fronts for Mr. Li, who had been previously identified as a supplier of parts for Iran’s ballistic missile activities. According to the unsealed indictment, Mr. Li used these companies to illicitly move millions of dollars through United States-based financial institutions to conduct business with Iran.

The Dubai company, identified as Al Aqili Group L.L.C., and the two Dubai-based businessmen, identified as Mohamed Saeed al-Aqili of Dubai and Anwar Kamal Nizami of Pakistan, were accused of “shady and deceptive oil deals with Iran,” according to the Treasury announcement.

Under the sanctions, violators are banned from doing business in the United States, and any properties they hold under American jurisdiction can be seized.

The last significant sanctions enforcement actions were in late January and early February. On Jan. 23, the Treasury Department announced what it described as a landmark $152 million settlement of sanctions violations by Clearstream Banking, a Luxembourg-based subsidiary of Germany’s Deutsche Börse securities exchange, for having permitted Iran to evade restrictions on dealings with American banks.

A few days later, the Treasury Department announced a $9.5 million settlement with the Bank of Moscow, which was accused of illicitly moving money through the American banking system on behalf of Bank Melli, an Iranian bank hit with sanctions. On Feb. 6, Treasury announced that it had penalized companies and individuals in eight countries.

Those announcements, shortly after the temporary nuclear accord with Iran took effect, had also been intended partly as a message to dispel conjecture that the sanctions were unraveling.

Since then, some critics have accused the administration of being willing to play down sanctions violations so as to not jeopardize the success of the nuclear negotiations, which President Obama regards as an important foreign policy objective.

“My sense is that the Obama administration is trying to counter charges that it is willing to overlook all Iranian provocations in order to ensure that nothing interferes with a nuclear deal,” said Mark Dubowitz, executive director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a Washington-based group that has advocated strong sanctions against Iran. “This may be part of that pushback strategy.”

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