Middle East

US reportedly preparing fresh sanctions over Iran ballistic missile program

Iran is continuing development of its ballistic missile and space programs.

The U.S. is preparing to impose financial sanctions on Iran for the first time since this past summer’s agreement on Tehran’s nuclear program, according to a published report.

The Wall Street Journal, citing U.S. officials, reported that the sanctions would be aimed at companies and individuals in Iran, the United Arab Emirates and Hong Kong for their alleged role in developing Iran’s ballistic missile program.

The sanctions would forbid U.S. or foreign nationals from conducting business with the blacklisted firms, as well as freeze any assets the companies or individuals hold inside the American financial system.

The Wall Street Journal reports that part of the justification for the sanctions is ongoing ties between Iran and North Korea, including the alleged purchase of components from a North Korean firm and the dispatching of Iranian technicians to North Korea since 2013 to develop a rocket booster.

According to the Journal, if the Treasury Department goes through with the sanctions, it would do so in the face of defiance from Iran, which claims that any new sanctions would be viewed by the country’s supreme leader as a violation of the nuclear deal. For its part, the Treasury says it retains the right to punish Iranian entities allegedly involved in missile development, international terrorism, and human rights abuses.

A senior U.S. official told the Associated Press that Congress is being informed about deliberations over whether to impose sanctions.

The report on the planned sanctions comes one day after U.S. defense officials slammed Tehran for conducting what it called a “highly provocative” rocket test near two U.S. warships last week in the Strait of Hormuz.

Iran denied on Thursday that its Revolutionary Guards launched rockets near the U.S. aircraft-carrier Harry S. Truman and other warships as they were entering the Gulf on Saturday, rejecting a U.S. report as “psychological warfare”.

The naval forces of the Guards have not had any exercises in the Strait of Hormuz during the past week and the period claimed by the Americans, for them to have launched missiles and rockets,” the Revolutionary Guards website quoted Ramezan Sharif, the Guard’s spokesman, as saying.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, responded to Saturday’s incident with renewed criticism of the nuclear agreement.

A rush to sanctions relief threatens to embolden an increasingly aggressive Iranian regime that has no intention of normalizing relations with the West or of retreating from a malign policy intended to destabilize the Middle East,” McCain said in a statement released Wednesday.

In the months since the deal was agreed to this past July, Iran has conducted missile tests criticized by the U.S., as well as aired footage on state television of an underground missile base.

Iran has claimed its ballistic missile program is for defense purposes only and doesn’t violate international law.

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