President Hassan Rouhani on Friday called new US sanctions on Iran’s banks an attempt to prevent purchases of medicine and food.
“The US efforts to create serious obstacles for fund transfers for the supply of medicine and food are cruel, terrorist and inhumane,” Rouhani said.
The United States on Thursday imposed fresh sanctions on Iran’s financial sector, targeting 18 Iranian banks in an effort to further shut Iran out of the global banking system as Washington ramps up pressure on Tehran weeks ahead of the US election.
Rouhani said the US spared no efforts against Iran but it “cannot break the resistance of the Iranian people” through its “anti-human rights acts” which “run counter to international law”.
“These acts by Washington are completely inhumane and should be condemned by those who claim to be advocates of human rights in the global arena,” he said.
The president noted that such efforts by the administration of President Donald Trump are “politically motivated” and meant to serve “domestic propaganda”.
Governor of the Central Bank of Iran Abdolnaser Hemmati also dismissed the new sanctions as propaganda linked to US domestic politics.
“Rather than having any economic effect, the American move is for US domestic propaganda and political purposes, and shows the falsity of the human rights and humanitarian claims of US leaders,” Hemmati said in a statement.
Crime against humanity
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said the United States targeted Iran’s “remaining channels to pay for food and medicine” in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Amid Covid19 pandemic, U.S. regime wants to blow up our remaining channels to pay for food & medicine,” Zarif said on Twitter. “But conspiring to starve a population is a crime against humanity.”
He pledged that “Iranians WILL survive this latest of cruelties,” adding, “Culprits & enablers — who block our money — WILL face justice.”
The US Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) specified two of the targets as Iran’s Bank Maskan and Bank Keshavarzi. The former is relied on by the biggest part of the country’s 80-million-strong population for loans assisting them to buy houses, while the latter has the biggest stakes countrywide in the agricultural sector.
Bank Refah Kargaran that is favored by the country’s laborers and technical workers, Gharzolhasaneh Resalat Bank that is reputed for its small and low-interest loans, and entrepreneurship-focused Karafarin Bank were three others of the financial institutions.
The rest of the sanctioned institutions were named as Bank Pasargad, Saman Bank, Sarmayeh Bank, Tose’e Ta’avon Bank, Tourism Bank, and Amin Investment Bank, Shahr Bank, Eghtesad Novin Bank, Bank Hekmat Iranian, Iran Zamin Bank, Middle East Bank, Mehr Iran Credit Union Bank, and Islamic Regional Cooperation Bank.
The OFAC alleged that the relatively across-the-board measure was in line with the US’ general policy of targeting the Iranian entities that “may” be used to support Iran’s nuclear program, missile program or, what it called, its “terrorist” activities and “malign regional influence.”
Foreign companies that do business with those banks were given 45 days to wind down their operations before facing secondary sanctions.
The move comes as the US has stepped up efforts to kill the 2015 Iran nuclear deal that Trump unilaterally withdrew from in 2018. Since then, Trump has steadily increased pressure on Iran by imposing sanctions on its oil sales, shipping, financial activities and blacklisting top government officials.
While they exempt food, medicine and other humanitarian supplies, many foreign banks are already deterred from doing business with Iran – including for humanitarian deals.
European nations have opposed the blanket financial services blacklisting because it will open up their biggest banks and other companies to US penalties for conducting business with Iran that had previously been allowed.
Critics say the so-called “secondary sanctions” will further cut off Iran’s ability to import humanitarian goods that are especially needed during the coronavirus pandemic.
“It’s like a punch in the face to the Europeans, who have gone out of their way to indicate to the Americans that they view it as being extremely threatening to humanitarian assistance or humanitarian trade going to Iran,” said Elizabeth Rosenberg of the Center for a New American Security think tank.
“They also want ... to make it very difficult for any future president to be able to unwind these measures and engage in nuclear diplomacy,” Rosenberg added, alluding to the possibility that Democratic candidate Joe Biden could defeat Republican Trump in the Nov. 3 US election.
Biden, who was vice president when the administration of Barack Obama negotiated the multilateral nuclear deal with Iran, has said he would rejoin the accord if Iran first resumed compliance with it.
Reuters, AP and Press TV contributed to this story.