The United States is upping the pressure on Tehran and its nuclear program, going after what it calls a network of "front companies" designed to benefit Iran's leadership.
U.S. officials Tuesday blacklisted The Execution of Imam Khomeini’s Order, also known as EIKO, and its 37 subsidiaries - a move that allows Washington to freeze any assets held by the Iranian leadership in the U.S.
A statement from the U.S. Treasury Department said EIKO and its subsidiaries "generate and control massive off-the-books investments, shielded from the view of the Iranian people and international regulators." U.S. officials said the companies make money through the sale of properties and other holdings while also exploiting favorable loan rates from Iranian banks.
U.S. Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David Cohen described EIKO as a "shadowy network of off-the-books front companies" that make money for Iran's leadership "at the expense of the Iranian people."
Tuesday's action followed an executive order President Barack Obama issued one day earlier, targeting Iran's currency and its auto industry.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said Monday the United States is trying to persuade Iran's leadership to enter into what he called "meaningful negotiations" over its nuclear program.
Tehran denies repeated charges by the U.S. and its allies that Iran is engaged in a secret program to build nuclear weapons. Several rounds of U.S. and international sanctions launched against Iran's economy have cited that government's refusal to comply with international demands and prove its nuclear program is peaceful.
Carney told reporters the U.S. wants a diplomatic solution but that "Iran must understand that time is not unlimited.''