US to impose ‘snapback’ sanctions on 24 targets linked to Iranian weapons

US to impose ‘snapback’ sanctions on 24 targets linked to Iranian weapons
The US on Monday will sanction more than two dozen people and entities involved in Iran's nuclear, missile and conventional arms programs. (File/AFP)
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Updated 21 September 2020

US to impose ‘snapback’ sanctions on 24 targets linked to Iranian weapons

US to impose ‘snapback’ sanctions on 24 targets linked to Iranian weapons
  • The Trump administration suspects Iran of seeking nuclear weapons
  • Monday's punitive steps are the latest in a series seeking to stymie Iran's atomic program

WASHINGTON: The US will impose sanctions on Monday on more than two dozen people and groups involved in Iran’s nuclear, missile, and conventional arms programs.

Iran could have enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon by the end of the year and Tehran has resumed long-range missile cooperation with nuclear-armed North Korea, a US official told the Reuters news agency.

The Trump administration argues that Iran is in breach of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the 2015 deal to curb its nuclear program in return for an easing of sanctions and that the sanctions should, therefore “snap back.” It also says a ban on trade with Iran in conventional weapons, which expires on Oct. 18, should be renewed.


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The UN Security Council says the US has no right to reimpose sanctions because President Donald Trump withdrew from the JCPOA in 2018 and that the weapons trade ban should be allowed to expire.

Nevertheless, Trump will issue an executive order on Monday to punish those who buy or sell conventional arms to Iran with secondary sanctions, depriving them of access to the US market and financial systems.

The new sanctions put European states, China, and Russia on notice that while they may ignore the US drive to maintain the UN sanctions on Iran, companies in their countries will be penalized for breaching them.

 “Iran is clearly doing everything it can to keep in existence a virtual turnkey capability to get back into the weaponization business at a moment’s notice should it choose to do so,” the US official said.

“Because of Iran’s provocative nuclear escalation, it could have sufficient fissile material for a nuclear weapon by the end of this year. Iran and North Korea have resumed cooperation on a long-range missile project, including the transfer of critical parts.”

The new executive order will define conventional weapons broadly as any item with potential military use, meaning it could cover such things as speed boats that Iran retrofits to harass vessels in international waters. It will also apply to conventional circuit boards that can be used in ballistic missile guidance systems.

More than two dozen sanction targets to be named on Monday include those involved in Iran’s conventional arms, nuclear, and missile programs. 

Among them will be Iran’s “most nefarious arms organizations,” about a dozen senior officials, scientists, and experts from Iran’s nuclear complex, members of a procurement network that supplies military-grade dual-use goods for Iran’s missile program, and several senior officials involved in Iran’s ballistic missile program.

The official said the US wanted to deter foreign companies from dealing with them even if their governments believed it was legal. “You might have a split in some countries where a foreign government may claim that the UN sanctions don’t snap back, but their banks and companies will abide by US sanctions because they want to make sure they are not a future target.”

Iran dismissed the new sanctions as part of Trump’s campaign for re-election to the White House. “The US’ ‘maximum pressure’ show, which includes new propaganda measures almost every week, has clearly failed miserably, and announcing new measures will not change this fact,” its UN mission spokesman Alireza Miryousefi said.

“The entire world understands that these are a part of the next US election campaign, and they are ignoring these preposterous claims. It will only make the US more isolated in world affairs.”