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US preparing for new sanctions against Iran: report

The Obama Administration is preparing a fresh set of sanctions against individuals and companies for their alleged role in the development of Iran’s ballistic missile programme, according to a media report.

The expected sanctions by US Treasury Department against individuals and companies in Iran, Hong Kong and United Arab Emirates would be the first set of sanctions against Iran after the historic nuclear deal it reached with Tehran on the latter’s nuclear weapons programme.

“The planned action by the Treasury Department… Is directed at nearly a dozen companies and individuals in Iran, Hong Kong and the United Arab Emirates for their alleged role in developing Iran’s ballistic-missile programme,” The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday.

The Treasury Department is preparing sanctions on two Iran-linked networks helping develop the missile programme. Under the planned restrictions, US or foreign nationals would be barred from doing business with the firms and people in the networks. US banks would also freeze any US-held assets, it said.

The Journal quoted US officials as saying that the Treasury Department maintains the right to sanction Iranian entities allegedly involved in missile development, or those that support rights abuses or international terrorism.

The Iranian government did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the possible new sanctions, which are expected to be formally announced this week, according to the financial daily.

It said that Iranian officials have warned the White House in recent months that any such financial penalties would be viewed by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as a violation of the nuclear accord.

Meanwhile, Republican Senator John McCain, Chairman of Senate Armed Services Committee, described as highly provocative the reports of Iran launching several rockets with little warning just 1,500 yards from a US aircraft carrier in the Strait of Hormuz.

“This alarming launch comes after Iran has conducted two advanced missile tests since October in violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions,” he said.

“Yet the Administration continues to turn a blind eye to Iranian saber rattling, continued state sponsorship of terrorism, and violations of its international commitments for fear Iran will walk away from the nuclear deal.

“The administration’s desperate attempts to get sanctions relief before the elections in February based on an unfounded belief that it will promote what they perceive as a ‘moderate’ political strain in Iran is both naive and dangerous,” McCain said.

He added: “A rush to sanctions relief threatens to embolden an increasingly aggressive Iranian regime that has no intention of normalising relations with the West or of retreating from a malign policy intended to destabilize the Middle East.