Obama administration targets array of Iran entities with sanctions

Ron Kampeas

WASHINGTON (JTA) — The Obama administration sanctioned a broad range of Iranian companies, banks, individuals and institutions, highlighting what it says is its determination to maintain pressure on the country while nuclear talks are underway.

Among the entities targeted in statements released simultaneously Friday by the U.S. Departments of Treasury and State were shipping lines alleged to have bypassed existing energy sector sanctions, banks that violated financial sector sanctions and airlines said to have transported weapons to Iran.


“These actions underscore U.S. resolve to enforce sanctions as the P5+1 and Iran work toward a comprehensive solution to address the international community’s concerns over Iran’s nuclear program,” the State Department release said, using the acronym for the six nations now negotiating with Iran: Russia, China, France, Britain, the United States and Germany.

It added that the terms governing the talks, which in July were extended to November, provide “Iran with limited, temporary, and targeted sanctions relief in return for important steps Iran took to constrain its nuclear program.”

The Obama administration has been at pains to show that Iran, contrary to claims by Israel, Republicans and a number of pro-Israel groups, has not benefited from the limited sanctions reliefs under the terms of the talks.

The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations praised the new sanctions.

“This action by the Department of State and Treasury will put companies and individuals on notice and block assistance to Iran’s nuclear and terror activities or avoidance of sanctions,” it said in a statement.

Analysts say similar sanctions have had the effect of driving away third-party business from targeted entities and individuals, resulting in a crush on Iran’s economy.

Separately, the State Department called on Iran to assist it in tracking Robert Levinson, a U.S. citizen missing in Iran for seven years. The appeal Friday came as part of a statement urging the release of three other Americans detained by Iran.

“We ask the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran to immediately release Amir Hekmati, Saeed Abedini, and Jason Rezaian and respectfully request the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran work cooperatively with us to find Mr. Levinson and bring him home,” it said.

Levinson, 66, a private detective and former FBI agent from Coral Springs, Fla., disappeared seven years ago from Kish Island while on a business trip. The Iranian government has said it is not holding him.