Hardline Iranian demonstrators burn representations of the US flag during a gathering in front of the former US Embassy in Tehran, Iran, May 9, 2018, reacting to US President Donald Trump's decision to pull out of the nuclear deal and renew sanctions on Iran. (VAHID SALEMI / AP)
WASHINGTON - The United States said on Thursday it has imposed sanctions against nine Iranian individuals and entities it accused of transferring millions of dollars to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force.
The decision came on the heels of US President Donald Trump's announcement to withdraw from the historic Iran nuclear deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
While announcing the pullout on Tuesday, Trump vowed to impose "the highest level" of economic sanctions on Tehran and inflict punishments like secondary sanctions on nations that have business links with Tehran.
The US imposed sanctions against nine Iranian individuals and entities accused of transferring millions of dollars to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force
Trump's decision has sparked global outcry for its potential undermining of the multilateral treaty and the unilateral imposition of long-arm jurisdiction that would cost other nations' economic interests.
The US Treasury said that it was working with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to "disrupt an extensive currency exchange network in Iran and the UAE that has procured and transferred millions in US dollar-denominated bulk cash to" the IRGC-QF.
Iran's Central Bank "was complicit in the IRGC-QF's scheme and actively supported this network's currency conversion and enabled its access to funds that it held in its foreign bank accounts," the Treasury said in a statement.
Iran has "abused access to entities in the UAE to acquire US dollars to fund the IRGC-QF's malign activities, including to fund and arm its regional proxy groups, by concealing the purpose for which the US dollars were acquired," Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in the statement.
As a result of these actions, all property and interests in property of those designated today subject to US jurisdiction are blocked, and US persons are generally prohibited from engaging in transactions with them.
In this April 30, 2018 file photo, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin speaks during a discussion at the Milken Institute Global Conference, in Beverly Hills, Calif. (JAE C. HONG / AP)
In addition, foreign financial institutions that knowingly facilitate significant transactions for, or persons that provide material or certain other support to, the individuals and entities designated on Thursday risk exposure to sanctions that could sever their access to the US financial system or block their property and interests in property under U.S. jurisdiction, said the Treasury.
It added that due to Trump's decision to cease the US participation in the JCPOA, "as of August 7, 2018, the United States Government will re-impose sanctions on the purchase or acquisition of US dollar banknotes by the Government of Iran."
TOUGH CHALLENGES AHEAD FOR US
Thursday's sanctions against Iran were not the first time this year. The Treasury on March 23 imposed sanctions on an Iranian entity and Iranian individuals for "malicious cyber-enabled activities."
On Jan 12, it also imposed sanctions on 14 individuals and entities over Iran's alleged human rights abuses and ballistic missile program.
A day after Trump's exit decision, White House spokesperson Sarah Sanders said "we are preparing to add additional sanctions that may come as early as next week."
Peter Harrell, an adjunct senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security, said that given international opposition to the US withdrawal and "scant international support for renewed sanctions," Trump would face formidable challenges.
"Perhaps the biggest diplomatic challenge Trump would face in reinstituting sanctions on Iran is convincing buyers of Iranian oil to reduce their purchases," said Harrell, also a lawyer who advises on sanctions compliance.