U.S. Treasury: Companies Are Not Yet Dealing with Iran

Treasury says there is no evidence that companies are taking advantage of the nuclear agreement with Iran by reaching new deals.

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The top U.S. Treasury Department official responsible for sanctions on Iran said on Wednesday there is no evidence that any companies are taking advantage of the preliminary nuclear agreement by reaching new deals in that country.

Speaking at a Senate hearing, Treasury Under Secretary David Cohen said, according to Reuters, "We have not seen companies anywhere — Europe, the Gulf, Asia — trying to take advantage of this ... narrow opening, the quite limited suspensions of the sanctions to get into the Iranian market, enter into business deals that would otherwise be sanctionable."

Cohen noted that authorities estimated when the preliminary agreement was reached that the sanctions relief would be worth a maximum of $6 billion to $7 billion for Iran. He said that estimate seems to be holding more than two months after the pact came into force in January.

"Nothing that we have seen leads us to question that estimate. If anything, that estimate is probably on the high side," he said, according to Reuters.

Under the six-month interim deal which was reached in November, Iran agreed to freeze its uranium enrichment program in return for sanctions relief, including the transfer of some $4.2 billion in frozen overseas funds.

That interim agreement is meant to lead to a final accord that minimizes any potential Iranian nuclear weapons threat in return for a full lifting of sanctions.

The sanctions that Washington announced in early February against a range of international entities sent a message that the United States would "come down like a ton of bricks" over sanctions violations, Cohen said, repeating similar comments recently made by President Barack Obama.

"We did that, and I think that sent a very strong message," he said.

Some lawmakers have been pushing forward a bill that would impose new sanctions on Iran despite the interim deal.

Obama has pledged to veto the sanctions bill should it pass and has warned lawmakers that imposing new sanctions on Iran while still being engaged in diplomatic talks with it could “lead to war”.