US Treasury imposes sanctions on 18 major banks in Iran

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin testifies during a Senate's Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs hearing examining the quarterly CARES Act report to Congress, in Washington, DC, U.S., September 24, 2020. (Reuters)
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Updated 09 October 2020

US Treasury imposes sanctions on 18 major banks in Iran

  • The Treasury Department said it was designating 18 major Iranian banks
  • The sanctions will be effective in 45 days, the department said

WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump's administration on Thursday imposed sweeping sanctions on Iran's banking sector, taking a major new step aimed at crippling the arch-rival's economy weeks ahead of US elections.
The Treasury Department said it was designating 18 major Iranian banks, a step that could largely cut off the nation of 80 million people from the world's financial system just as it tries to cope with the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Trump administration did not list specific accusations against most of the banks, instead declaring broadly that the entire Iranian financial sector may be used to support the government's contested nuclear program and its "malign regional influence."
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said that the action would "stop illicit access to US dollars."
"Our sanctions programs will continue until Iran stops its support of terrorist activities and ends its nuclear programs," he said in a statement.
The Treasury Department said it was exempting transactions in humanitarian goods such as food and medicine.
But European diplomats say that US sanctions nonetheless have dire humanitarian consequences, with few institutions in other nations willing to take the risks of legal action in the world's largest economy.
The Treasury Department said its sanctions will be effective in 45 days, giving companies time to wind down transactions in Iran.
The timeframe will also likely give anyone working with Iran a chance to see the outcome of the November 3 election, with polls showing Trump trailing to Democrat Joe Biden, who supports a return to diplomacy with Iran.
Trump has pursued a policy of "maximum pressure" aimed at reining in Iran, the arch-rival of US allies Saudi Arabia and Israel.
The Trump administration has already moved to stop all Iranian oil exports and bolted from a deal negotiated under former president Barack Obama through which Iran curtailed its nuclear program.


Saad Hariri named new Lebanon PM, promises reform cabinet

Updated 32 min 59 sec ago

Saad Hariri named new Lebanon PM, promises reform cabinet

  • Hariri immediately promised a government of technocrats committed to a French-backed reform plan
  • He has previously led three governments in Lebanon

BEIRUT: Three-time Lebanese prime minister Saad Hariri was named to the post for a fourth time Thursday and immediately promised a government of technocrats committed to a French-backed reform plan.
Hariri said he would “form a cabinet of non politically aligned experts with the mission of economic, financial and administrative reforms contained in the French initiative roadmap.”
“I will work on forming a government quickly because time is running out and this is the only and last chance facing our country,” he added.
President Michel Aoun named Hariri to form a new cabinet to lift the country out of crisis after most parliamentary blocs backed his nomination.
Hariri, who has previously led three governments in Lebanon, stepped down almost a year ago under pressure from unprecedented protests against the political class.
“The president summoned... Saad Al-Deen Al-Hariri to task him with forming a government,” a spokesman for the presidency said.
Hariri was backed by a majority of 65 lawmakers, while 53 abstained.
Lebanon is grappling with its worst economic crisis in decades and still reeling from a devastating port blast that killed more than 200 people and ravaged large parts of Beirut in August.
Aoun warned Wednesday that the new prime minister, the third in a year, would have to spearhead reforms and battle corruption.
A relatively unknown diplomat, Mustapha Adib, had been nominated in late August following the resignation of his predecessor Hassan Diab’s government in the aftermath of the deadly port blast.
Adib had vowed to form a cabinet of experts, in line with conditions set by French President Emmanuel Macron to help rescue the corruption-ridden country from its worst ever economic crisis.
He faced resistance from some of the main parties however and threw in the towel nearly a month later, leaving Lebanon rudderless to face soaring poverty and the aftermath of its worst peacetime disaster.