U.S. Imposes New Sanctions On Iran
January 17, 2016
The United States has announced new sanctions on Iranian companies and individuals linked to Iran's ballistic missile program.
The move comes a day after Washington and the EU lifted sanctions related to Tehran's nuclear program.
Sanctions were imposed against five Iranian nationals and a network of companies based in the United Arab Emirates and China, the U.S. Treasury Department announced in a statement.
UN experts said in a December report that Tehran's firing of a medium-range ballistic missile in October violated sanctions that ban Iran from launches capable of delivering nuclear weapons.
Adam J. Szubin, acting undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said that 'Iran's ballistic missile program poses a significant threat to regional and global security, and it will continue to be subject to international sanctions.'
The Reuters news agency reports that, according to officials familiar with the matter, U.S. President Barack Obama delayed the sanctions for more than two weeks during tense negotiations to free five American prisoners.
U.S. President Barack Obama has since praised the release of the five Americans who had been held in Iran and the full implementation of the historic nuclear deal with Tehran.
'This is a good day,' Obama said in a statement from the White House on January 17.
Speaking about the new sanctions imposed on Iran, Obama said the United States would continue to enforce sanctions against Iran's ballistic missile program.
'We will continue to enforce these sanctions vigorously,' Obama said.
In remarks shortly before the U.S. announcement, Iranian President Hassan Rohani said that any new American sanctions would be 'met by an appropriate response.'
Earlier in the day Iranian President Hassan Rohani hailed the lifting of international sanctions on his country, saying a nuclear deal with world powers opened 'new windows' for Tehran's engagement with the world.
Rohani told parliament on January 17 that the deal was also a 'turning point' point for Iran's economy, adding that the energy-rich country needed to be less reliant on oil revenues.
Secretary of State John Kerry announced on January 17 that the United States and Iran had also settled a longstanding dispute over $400 million dating back to before the 1979 Islamic Revolution and the end of diplomatic ties.
The U.S. will repay Iran a $400 million debt and $1.3 billion in interest.
The money was part of a trust fund that was once used by Iran to buy military equipment from the United States and is separate from the tens of billions of dollars in frozen foreign accounts that Iran can now access.
On January 16, the UN nuclear watchdog announced that Iran has kept its nuclear promises under the agreement reached in July, triggering the end of sanctions.
The announcement set off a rapid process of lifting international sanctions against Iran. The European Union said it has 'lifted all economic and financial sanctions against Iran related to the nuclear program.'
Washington formally lifted banking, steel, shipping, and other sanctions on Iran.
Iran also announced the release of four Americans including Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian as part of a prisoner swap with the United States.
A fifth prisoner, the American student Matthew Trevithick, was released separately.
Rohani said on January 17 that 'the nuclear deal is an opportunity that we should use to develop the country, improve the welfare of the nation, and create stability and security in the region.'
He said Iran should use the expected influx of money and investments to spark the 'economic mutation' of the country, which has been suffering double-digit inflation and unemployment rates for years.
Iran needs up to $50 billion in foreign investment per year to reach its goal of eight-percent annual growth, Rohani said.
With international sanctions lifted, more than $30 billion in assets overseas will become immediately available to Iran.
Official Iranian reports put the total amount of frozen Iranian assets overseas at nearly $100 billion.
According to the International Energy Agency, some 38 million barrels of oil are already in Iran's floating reserves, ready to enter the market.
As he presented a draft budget for the next fiscal year to parliament, Rohani said the deal was an opportunity for Iran's economy to cut its 'umbilical cord' to oil while prices were low.
But despite oil prices falling below $30, Iran intends to increase production after the nuclear deal.
The country is expected to increase its daily export of 1.1 million barrels of crude oil by 500,000 shortly, and a further 500,000 in the longer run.
The $75 billion budget had been ready for weeks, but Rohani decided not to present it until the nuclear deal was implemented because it was based on sanctions being lifted.
Rohani also pointed out that Iran now needs political tranquility to best benefit from the new economic reality.
'All should prevent any domestic and foreign trivialities that thwart us,' he said. 'Any irrelevant and diverting dispute is against national expedience.'
Rohani said Iran's nuclear deal signed in July in Vienna with the United States, Britain, France, Russia, China, and Germany was a win for all negotiating parties and all factions inside Iran.
The Vienna agreement was reached after two years of negotiations following Rohani's election.
With reporting by AP, Reuters, AFP, dpa, and the BBC
Copyright (c) 2016. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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