U.S. President Barack Obama's administration is taking the first steps toward enacting tighter sanctions against the Iranian government for its nuclear activities. The new penalties target individuals and firms who are linked to Iran's alleged nuclear program and its military.
One week after the United Nations Security Council imposed new sanctions on Iran, U.S. officials are aiming at more Iranians and institutions.
At a White House news briefing, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said the new actions are designed to deter governments and financial institutions from dealing with entities believed to be supporting nuclear-related activities in Iran.
"In the coming weeks we will continue to increase the financial pressure on Iran," said Timothy Geithner. "We will continue to target Iran's support for terrorist organizations. We will continue to focus on Iran's Revolutionary Guard. We will continue to expose Iran's efforts to evade international sanctions."
Geithner said penalties of this kind have been effective in the past. He said they have made a major difference in limiting Iran's ability to use the global financial system to support allegedly illicit activities.
"When major financial institutions and companies around the world discover they are actually working with Iranian companies that support Iran's nuclear or missile programs, they realize it is not worth the risk," he said. "They cut off their business."
Some of the new sanctions are aimed at Iran's Revolutionary Guard, which U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has accused of turning Iran into a military dictatorship.
Stuart Levey, the Undersecretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, told reporters the Revolutionary Guard is stealing economic opportunities from the Iranian people.
"We think that by focusing attention on the Revolutionary Guard, as we did at the United Nations, and as we have both unilaterally and with our partners around the world, that we are sending exactly the right message," said Stuart Levey. "We are going after the people who are oppressing the people of Iran, oppressing them politically and economically."
Iran's Post Bank becomes the 16th Iranian banking institution on the sanctions list. Five front companies and more than 90 ship names are listed for being used by Iran's maritime carrier (IRISL) to try to evade sanctions.
New penalties are being directed toward 22 petroleum, energy and insurance companies owned or controlled by the Iranian government -17 of them operating outside Iran.
The list also includes several individuals and entities believed to be involved in the Revolutionary Guard or Iran's nuclear or missile programs.
Treasury Secretary Geithner said the U.S. expects other countries to impose their own new penalties against Iran soon.
The European Union is set to hit Iran with new, tighter sanctions on Thursday. Those measures are focused mainly on key sectors of the country's oil and gas industry.
The U.S. Congress is also working on tougher sanctions against Iran.