Iran applies sanctions to 15 US companies

Tehran has imposed a ban on 15 US companies in retaliation to President Donald Trump’s new sanctions

Tehran's latest sanctions against American companies are largely symbolic, but nonetheless continue difficult relations between Iran and the US 

March 26 saw the Iranian Government impose sanctions on 15 US companies for alleged human rights violations and collusion with Israel to occupy Palestinian lands. The move has been described as a reciprocal act, made in response to renewed US sanctions on Iran, which were agreed in February following an Iranian missile test. What’s more, on March 24, US senators also agreed to a bipartisan bill to extend existing embargoes.

The Iranian state news agency, IRNA, reported that any in-country assets owned by the listed US companies were liable to be seized. The decision has been met with great confusion, however, as it is unclear whether any of the firms do indeed have business dealings in Iran.

The list of banned businesses includes defence companies, such as Raytheon, Magnum Research, and truck-maker Oshkosh. The latter was among those banned due to its most prominent business dealings being with Israeli armoured vehicle manufacturer Plasan. The Wisconsin-based company had also agreed to provide 200 tactical trucks to the Israeli Ministry of Defence in January. The firms have not provided immediate comment on the matter.

Iran’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on March 26: “The imposition of new sanctions by the US is based on fabricated and illegitimate pretexts and amounts to an action against international regulations as well as the word and spirit of the [nuclear deal].”

The list of banned businesses includes defence companies, such as Raytheon, Magnum Research, and truck-maker Oshkosh

US firms currently have limited dealings with Iran. While the 2015 agreement of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) promised Iran’s reintegration back into the global economy, progress thus far has been very slow. Although the US Treasury Department does issue some licenses for business dealings, the US still imposes sweeping primary prohibitions on Iranian citizens, as well as any persons and entities dealing with the country.

Furthermore, while recent multibillion-dollar deals with the likes of Boeing and Airbus have signalled greater economic ties with the US on the surface, the reality is quite different. Official restrictions on US banks limit their interactions with Iran, while US suppliers are also put under informal pressure to steer clear of business ventures in the country.

The present sanctions are more a political posture than an application of economic pressure on the US. With such light foreign investment in Iran at present, it is dubious whether any future sanctions imposed by the state could carry much economic heft either.