An interim nuclear deal with Iran that allows limited sanctions relief does not mean that the Islamic republic is “open for business”, senior US officials said Tuesday, vowing to vigorously enforce existing sanctions.
Testifying before Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman and Treasury Department official David Cohen told skeptical lawmakers that sanctions relief on Iran are limited and countries evading sanctions would be punished.
US officials are actively engaging with foreign banks, businesses and governmental counterparts to ensure the sanctions pressure continues, said Cohen, the Treasury’s Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence.
Cohen told lawmakers that over the last six weeks, he traveled to Britain, Germany, Italy, Austria, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates carrying the message: “Iran is not open for business.”
“In all of these engagements, we have made clear that we will continue to respond to Iran’s efforts to evade our sanctions wherever they may occur,” Cohen said.
Iran is not open for business because sanctions relief is “quite temporary, quite limited, and quite targeted,” said Sherman.
“It doesn’t matter whether the countries are friend or foe. If they evade our sanctions, we will sanction them,” Sherman added.
On Monday, a French business delegation arrived in Iran to explore trade opportunities amid the easing of sanctions following a landmark deal on Tehran’s controversial nuclear programme. The visit is the latest one among a number of similar trips by Asian and European businessmen.
Under a six-month interim deal, Iran halted part of its nuclear activities in return for an easing of sanctions that have crippled its economy for the past years. Iran and world powers began to implement the deal Jan 20.
Some US senators are seeking to ratchet up sanctions against Iran despite the accord, but President Barack Obama has threate