Author: Gordon Platt

SANCTIONS ON IRAN INCREASE

By Gordon Platt

Two days after the storming of the UK embassy in Tehran on November 29 to protest increased British sanctions on Iran, the US Senate unanimously passed new economic sanctions against Iran and its central bank.

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Iranian protestors burn British flag

The sanctions were strenuously opposed by the Obama administration, which said they could do more harm than good and would push up the price of oil. That would give Iran more money to fuel its nuclear ambitions, US officials said.

The European Union, meanwhile, agreed to impose new sanctions on 180 Iranian officials and firms on the heels of a UN report linking Iran to the development of a nuclear weapon. The EU also tightened sanctions against Syria, banning exports of oil and gas industry equipment to the country after the UN Human Rights Council said security forces had committed crimes against humanity in Syria.

On November 21, the UK had strengthened its sanctions against Iran’s banking sector. The new sanctions blocked nearly all business ties with Iran. The tightening of trade and financial restrictions from countries worldwide will increase pressure and penalties on companies with even a tangential connection to Iran, according to a report by the global law firm SNR Denton. One of the primary targets, it says, is the Central Bank of Iran, “which is involved in a wide range of commerce, as well as financial support for terrorism and nuclear proliferation.” Last August, 92 US senators signed a letter to president Obama calling for “crippling sanctions on Iran’s financial system by cutting off” the central bank.

Iran sanctions by the US and its allies continue to intensify, with an ever more vigorous campaign to identify and make public the names of the various front companies and individuals involved in attempts to evade the sanctions, SNR Denton says. Sanctions violations can trigger heavy fines and even prison terms, it adds.

Despite the turmoil in the region, Qatar raised $5 billion in the biggest bond sale in 2011 from the Arab Gulf. Gas-rich Qatar has one of the fastest-growing economies in the world. Investors placed bids for nearly twice the amount of the bonds offered, as they sought a safe haven from the European debt crisis.