Russia threatens to change Iran stance over US sanctions

Moscow warns it will respond to Washington’s ‘unfriendly gestures’; US Treasury enforces financial sanctions

Russian President Vladimir Putin (photo credit: AP/RIA-Novosti/Alexei Druzhinin/Presidential Press Service/File)
Russian President Vladimir Putin (photo credit: AP/RIA-Novosti/Alexei Druzhinin/Presidential Press Service/File)

MOSCOW — Russia on Tuesday angrily criticized the latest US sanctions, saying they could derail cooperation with Washington on dealing with the Iranian nuclear standoff and the Syrian crisis.

Russia-US ties have plunged to post-Cold War lows over Ukraine as Washington has introduced economic sanctions against Moscow for its annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula and support for a pro-Russian insurgency in eastern Ukraine. In the latest move, the US has imposed sanctions on four Russians under a law targeting Russian human rights violators.

The Russian Foreign Ministry on Tuesday dismissed the new US sanctions as unfounded and warned Washington that its actions “are putting in question the prospects for bilateral cooperation in settling the situation around the Iranian nuclear program, the Syrian crisis and other acute international problems.”

“We haven’t left, and will not leave, such unfriendly gestures without response, as Washington might have seen,” the ministry said.

Russia has cooperated with the United States and other global powers on efforts to negotiate a settlement on the standoff over the Iranian nuclear program. Washington has said that Moscow has played a constructive role in the Iranian nuclear talks, despite US-Russian differences on Ukraine and other issues.

Russia has staunchly supported Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime during the nation’s civil war, but Moscow has recently tried to broker talks between the Syrian government and the opposition. The negotiations have been tentatively scheduled for the end of January.

Meanwhile the US Treasury Department on Tuesday imposed economic penalties on six people and three companies accused of helping Iran’s government obtain hundreds of millions in US currency or evade existing sanctions.

David Cohen, Undersecretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, said the action showed that the Obama administration is serious about enforcing sanctions already on the books even though it does not support additional sanctions while the US and its partners work to negotiate with Iran over its nuclear program.

Obama has threatened to veto any new sanctions legislation while American diplomats continue their push for an accord that would set multiyear limits on Iran’s nuclear progress in exchange for an easing of the international sanctions that have crippled the Iranian economy. Senate hawks are still trying to build a veto-proof majority of 67 votes with Republicans set to assume the majority next month.

Those accused of helping Iran convert various currencies into hundreds of millions of US dollars include Iranians, citizens of Afghanistan and St. Kitts and Nevis and a Dubai-based trading company. Iran’s Douran Software Technologies is targeted for helping government censorship activities. Another tech firm, Abyssec, is blamed for supporting Iran’s Revolutionary Guard corps in cyber tradecraft.

Americans can’t do business with those blacklisted. Any assets they have in the US are now frozen.

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