The United States unleashed a fresh wave of sanctions against Iran on Thursday, ratcheting up pressure to convince Tehran to take seriously concerns about its suspected nuclear weapons program.
The new actions impose additional sanctions on Iran's nuclear and ballistic missile proliferation networks and identify Iranian "front" companies and banks to assist in compliance, the Treasury Department said.
“The Treasury and State Department actions target more than 50 entities tied to Iran's procurement, petroleum, and shipping networks,” the Treasury said, according to an AFP report.
David Cohen, the Treasury's under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said the moves take "direct aim at disrupting Iran's nuclear and ballistic missile programs as well as its deceptive efforts to use front companies to sell and move its oil."
He added, “We will continue to ratchet up the pressure.”
Iran has been subject to severe international economic sanctions over its controversial nuclear program, which Western powers believe masks an atomic weapons drive despite repeated denials by Tehran.
The increasing pressure from President Barack Obama's administration is designed “to convince Iran to engage seriously and address the international community's concerns about its nuclear program,” AFP quoted the Treasury as having said.
The sanctions freeze Iranian assets under U.S. jurisdiction and prohibit Americans from doing business with the targeted individual or entity.
The United States and European Union have implemented an oil embargo against Iran, leading to a substantial decline in exports of crude.
Tehran's current production levels to lows not seen in more than two decades, which has cost Iran billions in lost revenues.
In Thursday's actions, AFP reported, the U.S. Treasury and State departments targeted 11 entities, including a university, and four people, alleging that many of them are part of a network of proliferators headed by Iran's Ministry of Defense for Armed Forces Logistics and its subsidiary, Aerospace Industries Organization.
The four individuals hit with sanctions are: Austrian national Daniel Frosch; Ali Fadavi, Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps navy commander; Hamid Reza Rabiee, a software engineer; and Hossein Tanideh, a procurement agent for Iran's nuclear program.
The Treasury also said it was acting to prevent the circumvention of international sanctions on Iran, including sanctions on oil trade with Iran, by publicly exposing numerous Iranian front companies, ships and banks that are part of the government of Iran.
Among the entities identified were four "front" companies for the Naftiran Intertrade Company or the National Iranian Oil Company: Petro Suisse Intertrade Company SA; Hong Kong Intertrade Company; Noor Energy (Malaysia) Ltd.; and Petro Energy Intertrade Company.
It also identified the National Iranian Tanker Company as an Iranian government entity and, for the first time, the NITC fleet and various front companies belonging to NITC. It blacklisted 20 Iranian financial institutions.