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US official applauds Iran sanctions, says linked to unrest Open in fullscreen

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US official applauds Iran sanctions, says linked to unrest

Trump announcing the US withdrawal from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal [Getty]

Date of publication: 12 July, 2018

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A Treasury official said Washington's use of sanctions are tied to protests that have rocked Iran, but stopped short of saying regime change is a US goal.

A US official focused on sanctions against Iran said on Thursday recent economic protests that have rocked the country are tied to Washington's financial pressure.

But Sigal P. Mandelker, the undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence at the US Treasury, declined to comment if the goal of sanctions was regime overthrow. 

"You've seen the Iranian people, of course, stand up loudly, at risk of their own lives, shouting in protest about the corruption that's happening within Iran," Mandelker told reporters at a press conference in Dubai. 

She said that Iran's support for the Lebanese Shia militant group Hizballah, Houthis in Yemen and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad represents a "despicable use of Iranian revenue".

Mandelker and other Treasury officials have travelled to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the UAE this week as part of a worldwide effort to get American allies to crack down on Iran ahead of 4 November, when importing Iranian crude oil becomes a sanctionable offence for the US.

While the US has said it will grant some waivers to importing countries, Mandelker said American officials want to "very significantly reduce" Iran's crude oil exports.

Among the top importers of Iranian oil are China, India, Turkey and South Korea.

President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw from the 2015 Iran nuclear accord has only worsened the country's already-faltering economy. The rial now trades at 78,500 to the dollar, down from just under 43,000 at the end of last year. Promised billion-dollar deals with Western firms have evaporated for fear of being cut off the American financial system. 

Protests swept Iran at the end of last year and in Tehran in recent weeks amid economic troubles.

While the US is looking to shut off avenues Tehran could use to evade sanctions, observers say that will prove difficult. 

Iran already uses the UAE's many economic free zones to set up companies to acquire otherwise-prohibited materials, simply opening a new company when authorities target another. 

Experts also warn that unilateral sanctions targeting countries doing business with Iran jeopardise the international consensus on Iran. Many countries, including Turkey and India, have already vowed to continue importing Iranian oil. 

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