As IAEA Arrives in Tehran, Iran Braces for Full Force of US Sanctions

By Taghavi, Roshanak | The Christian Science Monitor, January 15, 2013 | Go to article overview

As IAEA Arrives in Tehran, Iran Braces for Full Force of US Sanctions


Taghavi, Roshanak, The Christian Science Monitor


As Iranian officials prepare for a new round of negotiations with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), US sanctions set to hit Tehran in February have Iranians worried that billions of dollars long stuck in bank accounts outside the Islamic Republic could soon become cemented in place.

The new US Treasury sanctions, which go into effect Feb. 6, will formally regulate global banking constraints that Iranian banks and businesses have been facing, on an informal basis, for more than two years.

Senior Iranian officials slammed the measures, calling them one of many purely political sanctions the US has imposed on Iran since the countrys 1979 revolution and subsequent establishment of an Islamic Republic.

The US is a member of the 5 plus 1, and if they really want to solve this problem if they are really worried about our activities, they can refer to it through technical [nuclear negotiations], and not politically, said Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast in a phone interview from Tehran. If they think they can achieve their goals with sanctions, that is a very big mistake.

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Sanctions have been a key part of the US strategy to force Iran to negotiate over its nuclear program, which the United States and its allies claim is intended for producing nuclear weapons. Tehran insists its program is peaceful, intended for medical research and meeting the energy needs of its rising population.

Iran last met with the so-called P5 plus 1 powers the United States, China, France, Germany, Russia, and Britain in Moscow in June, but the negotiators made little progress in reaching an agreement. In spite of some reports within the international community that the talks may be delayed, Mr. Mehmanparast said Irans deputy nuclear negotiator, Dr. Ali Bagheri, has been communicating with his European counterpart, Helga Schmid, and that another round of talks with the P5 plus 1 is expected later this month.

'Shackling' Iran's money

The aim of Washingtons February sanctions measure is for Tehrans oil revenues to become largely shackled within any country buying oil from Iran, undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence David Cohen declared at a conference in Washington last month.

This means Irans international oil customers even those with State Department waivers exempting them from US Treasury penalties for purchasing Iranian oil will officially be at risk of being cut off from the US banking system if they allow transfers of Irans oil revenues back to Tehrans Central Bank.

If implemented, the National Iranian Oil Company would be formally forced to keep its oil revenues in local bank accounts inside countries purchasing its oil, and could only use those oil earnings to purchase "permissible" services and goods, such as food, medicine, and basic medical equipment, from those oil customers as imports back into the Islamic Republic.

Irans oil sales first began to decline in 2010 due to the rise in transaction costs for purchases of Iranian oil resulting from sanctions. Oil sales plummeted further after the European Union imposed an oil embargo against Tehran in July 2012. To push Irans oil sales down even more, Washington now directly penalizes foreign companies that purchase Irans oil, and sanctions banks that facilitate financial transactions, such as money transfers, with the Islamic Republic. …

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