SULAIMANI (ESTA) — Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif accused the United States of targeting Iran’s “remaining channels to pay for food and medicine” in the midst of the pandemic through new sanctions announced on Thursday.
The United States slapped fresh sanctions on Iran’s financial sector, targeting 18 Iranian banks in an effort to further shut Iran out of the global banking system as Washington ramps up pressure on Tehran weeks ahead of the U.S. election, according to Reuters.
However, the U.S. Treasury Department said in a statement that the prohibitions did not apply to transactions for the provision of agricultural commodities, food, medicine or medical devices to Iran.
“Amid Covid 19 pandemic, U.S. regime wants to blow up our remaining channels to pay for food & medicine,” Zarif said on Twitter. “But conspiring to starve a population is a crime against humanity.”
Iranian Central Bank governor Abdolnaser Hemmati dismissed the new sanctions as propaganda linked to U.S. domestic politics.
“Rather than having any economic effect, the American move is for U.S. domestic propaganda and political purposes, and shows the falsity of the human rights and humanitarian claims of U.S. leaders,” Hemmati said in a statement posted on the central bank’s website.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh accused Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a tweet of being behind the new sanctions in a move to “lure [U.S. President Donald] Trump into doubling down on inhumane targeting of ordinary Iranians”.
While experts have said such a U.S. step could erode Iran’s ability to secure humanitarian goods by making foreign banks even more reluctant to facilitate such transactions, the Treasury stressed that the action under Executive Order 13902 does not affect existing authorizations for humanitarian trade, which remain in force.
Tensions between Washington and Tehran have soared since U.S. President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew in 2018 from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal struck by his predecessor and began reimposing U.S. sanctions that had been eased under the accord.
The sanctions Trump has reinstated target everything from oil sales to shipping and financial activities, and while they exempt food, medicine and other humanitarian supplies, many foreign banks are already deterred from doing business with the Islamic Republic – including for humanitarian deals.
Thursday’s move freezes any U.S. assets of those blacklisted and generally bars Americans from doing business with them.