The US slapped new sanctions on Iran’s financial sector on Thursday in an attempt to further isolate the Islamic Republic’s economy. The new measures target 18 Iranian banks and subjects foreign, non-Iranian institutions to penalties for doing business with them.
“Today’s action to identify the financial sector and sanction 18 major Iranian banks reflects our commitment to stop illicit access to US dollars,” US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.
The move comes after Washington’s European allies have been warning of the humanitarian consequences sanctions can have on Iran. The country is already facing an economic crisis due to previous US sanctions, which has been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.
European countries have been at odds with the Trump administration over its Iran policy. The US has been trying to enforce measures agreed to under the 2015 nuclear deal, an agreement the US withdrew from when it reimposed sanctions on Iran in 2018.
The US says the new sanctions do not apply to transactions that involve food or medical supplies. But the sanctions will discourage foreign banks from doing any business with Iran, including humanitarian deals. Sanctions imposed on Iran since 2018 also technically have exemptions for humanitarian goods, but have caused things like medicine shortages.
The new sanctions came just a day after Iran reported its highest number of daily deaths due to coronavirus. Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif responded to the new sanctions on Twitter. “Amid Covid19 pandemic, US regime wants to blow up our remaining channels to pay for food & medicine,” Zarif wrote.