The United States on Thursday imposed new sanctions on Iran's financial sector, targeting 18 banks to further hinder Iran's earnings. Washington is increasing pressure on Tehran in the weeks leading up to the US election.
The move froze the US assets of blacklisted banks and prohibits Americans from dealing with them. This means foreign banks risk losing access to US markets and financial systems.
However, the US Treasury Department said in a statement that the ban does not apply to transactions in the sale of agricultural commodities, food, medicine, or medical equipment to Iran because it understands the Iranian people's need for basic human goods.
However, analysts say secondary sanctions could increasingly deter European and other foreign banks from working with Iran, even on permitted humanitarian transactions.
"It is like a blow to the face for Europeans, who have gone to great lengths to show America that such efforts seriously threaten humanitarian aid or trafficking for humanitarian missions to Iran," said Elizabeth Rosenberg of the Center for a New American Security study.
"They also want ... to make it difficult for any future president to abandon these steps and engage in nuclear diplomacy," added Rosenberg, referring to the possibility that former Democratic Vice President Joe Biden could beat Republican President Donald Trump in US elections on November 3.
Tensions between Washington and Tehran have escalated since Trump unilaterally withdrew in 2018 from his predecessor's 2015 Iran nuclear deal and began reimposing US sanctions reduced under the agreement.
Trump has reinstated sanctions ranging from selling oil to shipping and financial activity.
Although the US sanctions exclude food, medicine, and other humanitarian supplies, many foreign banks have been prevented from doing business with Iran - including humanitarian mission deals.
Washington's latest move to target Iran's 18 major banks will allow the US Treasury to target entire sectors of the Iranian economy. These banks include Amin Investment Bank, Iranian Keshavarzi Bank, Maskan Bank, Refah Kargaran Bank, Bank e Shahr, Eghtesad Novin Bank, Gharzolhasaneh Resalat Bank, Iranian Hekmat Bank, Zamin Iran Bank, Karafarin Bank, Khavarmianeh Bank, United Bank Iran Mehr Credit, Pasargad Bank, Saman Bank, Sarmayeh Bank, Tosee Taavon Bank, Tourism Bank, and Islamic Regional Cooperation Bank. (Antaranews)