US hitting bank vital to Iran’s food and medicine imports claims foreign minister Zarif

US hitting bank vital to Iran’s food and medicine imports claims foreign minister Zarif
Parsian Bank insists it has nothing to do with financing Iran's Basij militia.
By bne IntelliNews October 18, 2018

Iran’s foreign minister has accused the US of applying sanctions to a bank that plays a vital role in importing food and medicine for Iranians and has no activities that could make it a legitimate target for Washington.

The "US addiction to sanctions is out of control," Mohammad Javad Zarif said on October 18, adding in a tweet that Washington was an "outlaw regime" that shows "utter disregard for rule of law & human rights of an entire people."

Parsian Bank was included on a list of Iranian entities newly subject to sanctions released on October 16 by the US Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). In announcing the sanctions, the Treasury said it was targeting a network of some 20 corporations and financial institutions known as the Bonyad Taavon Basij that finance the Basij Resistance Force, a volunteer militia linked to the Islamic Republic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). The US claims the militia recruits child soldiers.

But Parsian Bank has sharply rejected any idea it is connected to financing the Basij, arguing in a statement that for many years it has not had any international operations involving the dollar and that its banking was based on targeted export and import markets mainly concentrated in Europe and Asia, using other currencies.

Iran, a country of 81mn, has already fallen into recession because of the impact of the US sanctions assault to date, according to the IMF. Its currency, the rial, has lost more than half its value this year, although this latest move by the Americans appears to have had no discernible effect on its standing against hard currencies in the past two days.

Zarif said the latest set of sanctions from the US—which is attempting to strangle Iran’s economy to the point that Tehran comes to the table and agrees major concessions on roles it plays in the conflict-torn Middle East—violated orders from the International Court of Justice (IoJ) not to impede humanitarian trade with Iran.

"Blind vindictiveness"
An Iranian foreign ministry spokesman added that the latest sanctions were an "insult" to the international order that stems from "blind vindictiveness" against the Iranian nation.

The latest sanctions also target Iran’s Bank Mellat and Mehr Eqtesad Bank, the Iran Tractor Manufacturing Company, Esfehan’s Mobarakeh Steel Company, and other companies linked to investment, commodities and engineering.

The most harmful sanctions to Iran, which seek to establish a worldwide embargo on the Islamic Republic’s lifeline oil exports, kick in on November 5.

In explaining the sanctions round, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said: “This vast network provides financial infrastructure to the Basij’s efforts to recruit, train, and indoctrinate child soldiers [as young as 12] who are coerced into combat under the IRGC’s direction.”

Prior to announcing the new waves of sanctions in early May, the US unilaterally withdrew from the multilateral nuclear deal between Iran and six major powers.

Signed in late 2015, the deal shielded Iran from heavy sanctions in return for measures designed to prevent Tehran from moving towards the development of a nuclear weapon. All the other major power signatories to the accord—the UK, France, Germany, Russia and China—have remained in the deal, saying Iran has honoured its conditions. They are opposed to the Trump administration’s sanctions and have pledged to work to salvage the nuclear deal and maintain trade and investment with the Iranians.