Oil tankers cruise out the Strait of Hormuz off the shores of Tibat in Oman. The US has added companies and individuals to a sanctions list due to their dealings with Iran. The list includes companies involved in the export of Iranian crude oil. (Marwan Naamani / AFP via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON — Following several days of rising support in the US Congress for a new round of sanctions against Iran, the Obama administration announced early Thursday that it would be adding more than a dozen names of individuals and companies to existing sanctions lists.
The move comes as something of a preemptive strike, an effort to demonstrate that sanctions are being taken seriously by the administration while allowing negotiators in discussions with Iran about a permanent end to that nation’s nuclear weapons program to keep their promise and not add any new sanctions.
“I think there’s a very clear distinction and one that was expressed during the negotiations of the joint plan with the Iranians, and that was that the existing sanctions framework — and that included both US sanctions and sanctions imposed by our partners overseas — will continue to be enforced with the minor exceptions of what was contained in the relief package,” a senior administration official said on a call with reporters Thursday. “That is quite different from layering on new sanctions authorities that don’t currently exist, and that’s what is being discussed on the Hill.”
The official would not tie the timing of the announcement to movement in Congress, saying the administration took action when it had sufficient evidence to support additions to the list.
The promise to not add new sanctions was part of the initial agreement reached last month between the US and Iran that was designed to begin the elimination of Iran’s stockpiles of highly enriched uranium and allow inspections at various sites in exchange for temporary exceptions for some sanctions. The latter has upset some in Congress who argue that further sanctions are needed to make sure that Iran feels sufficient pressure during negotiations, and who have voiced concern at the sanctions relief contained in the initial agreement with Iran.
While the Obama administration has said the sanctions relief package would provide roughly $7 billion to Iran over six months, other published estimates from unnamed sources have put the number at nearly three times that, a figure that administration officials flatly deny. There’s also concern that any adjustment in sanctions could encourage businesses to move into Iran, a claim that made its way to the front page of the Wall Street Journal.
“The Joint Plan of Action reached in Geneva does not, and will not, interfere with our continued efforts to expose and disrupt those supporting Iran’s nuclear program or seeking to evade our sanctions,” Treasury’s Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David Cohen said in a statement released Thursday morning. “Today’s actions should be a stark reminder to businesses, banks and brokers everywhere that we will continue relentlessly to enforce our sanctions, even as we explore the possibility of a long-term, comprehensive resolution of our concerns with Iran’s nuclear program.”
US citizens and institutions are prohibited from engaging in transactions with those listed, and the designation freezes any assets from the companies and people on the list that are under US jurisdiction. Foreign companies or people who help those listed may also be shut out of the US market.
Some of the new names added to the list are companies and individuals tied to the export of Iranian crude oil, while others have been involved with production of weapons of mass destruction, the administration said. One, Eyvaz Technic Manufacturing Company, was said to be helping Iran obtain parts for its centrifuge program that enriches uranium.
Secretary of State John Kerry spent several hours on Tuesday dueling with both Democrats and Republicans in the House, a majority of whom voiced support for further sanctions.
“Let me be very clear, this is a very delicate diplomatic moment and we have a chance to address peacefully one of the most pressing national security concerns that the world faces today, with gigantic implications of the potential of conflict,” Kerry said.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has been putting pressure on Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., to allow a vote on a modified version of a House bill that would add new sanctions set to take effect at the end of the six month negotiating window with Iran created by the initial agreement.
Although any vote in the Senate would appear unlikely before January, the administration may be looking to convince Democrats not to add new sanctions, hoping to peel away enough votes to prevent passage of a bill.
These are the companies and individuals added to the list:
■ Mid Oil Asia
■ Singa Tankers
■ Siqiriya Maritime
■ Ferland Company Limited
■ Vitaly Sokolenko
■ Eyvaz Technic Manufacturing Company
■ The Exploration and Nuclear Raw Materials Production Company
■ Maro Sanat Company
■ Navid Composite Material Company
■ Negin Parto Khavar
■ Neka Novin Officials Iradj Mohammadi Kahvarin and Mahmoud Mohammadi Dayeni
■ Qods Aviation Industries
■ Iran Aviation Industries Organization
■ Reza Amidi, Fan Pardazan, and Ertebat Gostar Novin