Closed bank, moth­balled planes: Iran mocks US sanc­tions list

The Myanmar Times - - Business | International -

THE “largest-ever” US sanc­tions list tar­get­ing Iran drew mock­ery from Ira­nian of­fi­cials on Tues­day for in­clud­ing moth­balled Boe­ing 747s, a bank that closed years ear­lier and a sunken oil tanker that ex­ploded off China months ago.

How­ever, the new list of sanc­tions, which also aims to cut Iran’s vi­tal oil in­dus­try off from in­ter­na­tional sales, also in­cluded for the first time its state air­line and its atomic en­ergy com­mis­sion, fur­ther high­light­ing the max­i­mal­ist ap­proach of Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Trump pulled Amer­ica out of the 2015 nu­clear deal Iran struck with world pow­ers in May. United Na­tions mon­i­tors say Iran still abides by the deal, in which it agreed to limit its ura­nium en­rich­ment in re­turn for the lift­ing of in­ter­na­tional sanc­tions.

The US Trea­sury De­part­ment im­posed penal­ties on more than 700 Ira­nian and Ira­nian-linked in­di­vid­u­als, en­ti­ties, air­craft and ves­sels in the new sanc­tions. Among those are 50 Ira­nian banks and sub­sidiaries, and more than 200 peo­ple and ships.

How­ever, scat­tered among the list are sur­pris­ing en­tries, like the crude oil tanker Sanchi. That ves­sel col­lided with a bulk freighter and caught fire off China’s east coast in Jan­uary, killing all 32 sailors aboard.

An­other en­try was Iran’s Tat Bank, which closed in 2012.

For­eign Min­is­ter Mo­hammed Javad Zarif took to Twit­ter to mock some of the tar­gets of the sanc­tions, de­scrib­ing it as a “des­per­ate” psy­cho­log­i­cal ploy.

“The US des­ig­nated a bank that was closed 6 years ago, and a ship that sank . in a widely tele­vised saga,” he wrote, end­ing the tweet with ”(hash­tag) US is Iso­lated.”

But for the first time, the United States tar­geted Iran Air. It also sanc­tioned the state car­rier’s moth­balled fleet of Boe­ing 747s, which were man­u­fac­tured in the 1970s.

It also ap­peared that the US, in an­other first, was di­rectly sanc­tion­ing the Atomic En­ergy Or­ga­ni­za­tion of Iran, the gov­ern­ment agency that over­sees Iran’s nu­clear pro­gram. Prior sanc­tions tar­geted spe­cific sub­sidiaries of the or­ga­ni­za­tion.

Eshaq Ja­hangiri, Pres­i­dent Has­san Rouhani’s se­nior vice pres­i­dent, also crit­i­cized the sanc­tions.

“Amer­i­cans think their list is more ef­fec­tive if it is longer,” Ja­hangiri said, ac­cord­ing to the state-run IRNA news agency. He said he had dis­cussed the list with other of­fi­cials, with many say­ing it was “less than what we ex­pected.”

Still, Ja­hangiri warned that “Amer­i­cans in­tend to dam­age econ­omy of the coun­try” through psy­cho­log­i­cal war­fare.

Zarif later is­sued an on­line video crit­i­ciz­ing Amer­ica’s “in­dis­crim­i­nate as­sault” on his coun­try.

“The US ad­min­is­tra­tion ap­pears to be­lieve that im­pos­ing il­le­gal dra­co­nian sanc­tions on Iran will bring about such pain to our na­tion that it will force us to sub­mit to its will, no mat­ter how ab­surd, un­law­ful or fun­da­men­tally flawed its de­mands are.”

Zarif urged Amer­ica to re-ex­am­ine its “catas­tro­phes” in the Mideast, in­clud­ing its sup­port for Saudi Ara­bia and Is­rael.

Iran is al­ready in the grip of an eco­nomic cri­sis. Its na­tional cur­rency, the rial, now trades at 150,000 to one US dol­lar; a year ago, it was about 40,500. The eco­nomic chaos sparked mass anti-gov­ern­ment protests at the end of last year, re­sult­ing in nearly 5,000 re­ported ar­rests and at least 25 peo­ple be­ing killed.

Spo­radic smaller demon­stra­tions still re­port­edly erupt from time to time. The new sanc­tions par­tic­u­larly hurt Iran’s vi­tal oil in­dus­try, which pro­vides a cru­cial source of hard cur­rency. US Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo said the sanc­tions al­ready had cost Iran the sale of over 1 mil­lion bar­rels of crude oil a day.

An­a­lysts feared in the run-up to the sanc­tions that global oil prices could spike on tight sup­ply and in­creas­ing de­mand. How­ever, the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion al­lowed some of its al­lies — Greece, In­dia, Italy, Ja­pan, South Korea, Tai­wan and Turkey — as well as ri­val China to con­tinue to pur­chase Ira­nian oil as long as they work to re­duce im­ports to zero. The price of bench­mark Brent crude has dropped from over $80 a bar­rel in re­cent days.

Dur­ing a visit to Madrid on Tues­day, Rus­sian For­eign Min­is­ter Sergei Lavrov said the US de­ci­sion to re-im­pose sanc­tions on Iran was “not le­git­i­mate” and that the rest of the par­ties to the 2015 nu­clear deal aban­doned by Wash­ing­ton are work­ing to make eco­nomic co­op­er­a­tion with Tehran pos­si­ble.

Lavrov’s re­marks were Rus­sia’s first re­ac­tion to Wash­ing­ton’s new list of sanc­tions against Iran. The Rus­sian diplo­mat said the sanc­tions go against in­ter­na­tional law and prac­tices, and that the US “poli­cies of is­su­ing an ul­ti­ma­tum and mak­ing uni­lat­eral moves are un­ac­cept­able these days.”

Photo: AP

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