The U.S. government froze the assets of two Iranian companies on Thursday, declaring both to be connected to weapons proliferation by the Islamic Republic. One was a New York-based company with major holdings in Manhattan.
An official statement issued by the Treasury Department named ASSA Corp., "a front company created and controlled by Iran's Bank Melli" and its parent company, ASSA Co. Ltd., located in the Channel Islands as "being controlled by and/or acting on behalf of Bank Melli."
"All property and interests in any property of ASSA Corp. and ASSA Co. Ltd. that are in the United States, that hereafter come within the United States, or that are or hereafter come within the possession or control of U.S. persons, are blocked and may not be transferred or otherwise dealt in," according to the statement
The Iranian firm also co-owns a property on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan with the Alavi Foundation of New York, a non-profit Iranian charitable organization originally known as the Pahlavi Foundation that was created under the Shah of Iran in the 1970s. The statement noted that the entity later changed names to Bonyad Mostazafan after the 1979 Iranian revolution and then again changed names to the Alavi Foundation.
Bank Melli was designated as a "bank of proliferation" in October 2007 by the United States, and then similarly in August 2008 by the European Union as well. The statement said the bank provided opening letters of credit and maintained accounts for Iranian front companies and entities that engaged in proliferation activities.
The Islamic Republic has continued to pursue its nuclear development program in defiance of a 2007 mandate by the United Nations Security Council to end its activities and despite several rounds of economic sanctions imposed in hopes of persuading it to do so.
Both the United States and Israel remain convinced that Iran is developing a nuclear weapon of mass destruction, which it intends to employ against the Jewish State. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has often vowed to pursue that goal in his public speeches, referring to Israel as a "cancer" that he has promised to "wipe off the map."