Washington: The US has slapped fresh sanctions against Iran, targeting the country`s elite Revolutionary Guard force and energy and shipping sectors over its controversial nuclear and missile programmes.
Sanctions were placed on the financial networks of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which is seen as a key driver of Iran`s suspected nuclear weapons programme; and the country`s national maritime carrier -- the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines (IRISL).
"Both the IRGC and IRISL are major institutional participants in Iran`s illicit conduct and in its attempts to evade sanctions. We will therefore continue to target and expose their networks," Stuart Levey, Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, said.
The UN, US and EU had also recently imposed new punitive measures against Tehran in a bid to stop its uranium enrichment programme which they fear masks a weapons drive. Tehran denies the charge, saying the programme has purely peaceful goals.
In a statement, the US Treasury Department said IRGC continues to be a primary focus of US and international sanctions against Iran because of the central role it plays in Iran`s missile and nuclear programmes, its "support" for terrorism as well as its "involvement" in serious human rights abuses.
The US, UN, EU, Japan, South Korea and others have all targeted the IRGC for sanctions because of "this illicit" activity.
With the IRGC`s expanding influence and control over broader segments of the Iranian economy, including the defence production, construction and oil and gas industries, increasing numbers of Iranian businesses are subsumed under the IRGC`s umbrella and identified with its illicit conduct, the statement said.
Similarly, the Treasury said IRISL plays a key role in Iran`s efforts to advance its missile programmes and transport other military cargos.
The enhanced focus of US and international sanctions on IRISL`s illicit activities and deceptive practices has, among other things, led IRISL to default on commercial loans and made it increasingly difficult for Iran to maintain insurance coverage on IRISL ships.
As a result, IRISL has been unable to operate with its full fleet of ships, the statement said.
In a separate action, the Treasury identified an Iranian energy concern, Pars Oil and Gas Company, as being owned or controlled by the government, hitting it with sanctions.
Pars Oil and Gas Company is a subsidiary of the National Iranian Oil Company and was established to develop the South Pars and North Pars gas fields.