- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Obama administration on Thursday imposed fresh sanctions against entities and individuals involved in Iran’s defense, aerospace and shipping communities in the government’s effort to thwart the Islamic republic’s nuclear program.

The Treasury Department asserted in a statement that the new sanctions “target Iran’s nuclear and missile proliferation activities.”

In addition, Treasury officials said they were putting a public spotlight on several previously unnamed entities as part of an effort to foil “Iran’s attempts to evade sanctions through the use of front companies.”

In addition to adding 20 Iranian financial institutions to the department’s Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons list, Treasury officials identified the National Iranian Tanker Co. (NITC) as a government-run outfit overseeing a fleet of companies involved in Iran’s oil industry.

The Treasury Department also identified four companies based in Switzerland, Hong Kong, Dubai and Malaysia as fronts for the Naftiran Intertrade Co., also known as the National Iranian Oil Co.

The department said it was making the identifications in order to expose the entities’ “attempts to conceal its tanker fleet by repainting, reflagging, or disabling GPS devices.”

Various news reports have accused Iran of employing such techniques to avoid the squeeze from a U.S.-led embargo on Iranian oil.

Since last year, the administration has implemented sanctions empowering authorities to block U.S. market access from any of the world’s financial institutions doing oil-related business with Iran’s banks.

The embargo aims to pressure Iran to stop enriching uranium and open its nuclear program to international inspectors. The Islamic republic claims the program is peaceful and not geared toward making bombs.

Iran today is under intense, multilateral sanctions pressure, and we will continue to ratchet up the pressure so long as Iran refuses to address the international community’s well-founded concerns about its nuclear program,” David S. Cohen, Treasury under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said in announcing the new measures Thursday.

“Today’s actions are our next step on that path, taking direct aim at disrupting Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs as well as its deceptive efforts to use front companies to sell and move its oil,” he said.