Iran’s central bank says new sanctions show US has no ‘leverage’

Measures touted as toughest ‘ever’ by Trump are derided in Tehran as proof of ‘how empty their hands are’

The Central Bank of Iran (Courtesy)
The Central Bank of Iran (Courtesy)

Iran’s central bank governor said Friday that new US sanctions against the lender are a symptom of Washington’s inability to exert “leverage,” state news agency IRNA reported.

“The US administration sanctioning the central bank again shows how empty their hands are in finding leverage against Iran,” IRNA quoted central bank governor Abdolnaser Hemmati as saying.

Washington has imposed a series of sanctions against Tehran since unilaterally pulling out of a multilateral nuclear deal in May last year.

US President Donald Trump announced new sanctions on Iran’s central bank on Friday, calling the measures the toughest ever imposed on another country by Washington.

Hemmati contended that if US sanctions were effective, Iran’s “economic condition would have been very different from what it is now.”

The Trump administration had vowed a response after US officials blamed Iran for attacks that took place last weekend on Saudi Arabia’s oil infrastructure — an accusation denied by Tehran.

US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin holds a press conference during the IMF/World Bank spring meeting in Washington, DC, April 21, 2018. (ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP)

Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels have claimed responsibility for those attacks, which hit the Khurais oilfield and the world’s largest oil processing facility at Abqaiq.

The United States already maintains sweeping sanctions on Iran including on its central bank, but Friday’s designation is over the lender’s work in funding “terrorism,” according to the US Treasury.

The “action targets a crucial funding mechanism that the Iranian regime uses to support its terrorist network, including the Quds Force, Hezbollah and other militants that spread terror and destabilize the region,” said US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in a statement. “Iran’s brazen attack against Saudi Arabia is unacceptable,” he said.

The Quds Force conducts international operations for Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards, who are in charge of protecting the clerical regime.

Hezbollah, the Shiite terror group and political party in Lebanon, is among Iran’s closest regional partners.

The Treasury Department’s use of the terror designation, rather than only sanctioning Iran over its alleged nuclear work, may make the measures more difficult to lift, even if Trump loses next year’s election to a Democrat who wants to ease sanctions as part of a future deal.

The Treasury Department said that the Iranian central bank has provided “billions of dollars” to the two units, which were both previously designated as terrorists by Washington.

The United States also imposed sanctions on Iran’s sovereign wealth fund, whose board of trustees include President Hassan Rouhani, as well as Etemad Tejarate Pars, a company that the Treasury Department said had sent money internationally on behalf of Iran’s defense ministry.

Trump in June authorized a military strike after Iran shot down a US drone, only to call it off at the last moment.

He recently said that he hopes for talks with Rouhani, who responded that Trump must first ease sanctions.

Trump last year pulled out of a nuclear accord with Iran negotiated under former president Barack Obama, sending tensions soaring as he tried to stop all countries from buying Iran’s oil.

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