On the heels of the United States announcing new sanctions against companies and individuals transferring technology for Iran’s ballistic missile program, Iran responded with its own sanctions regime on US military companies involved in supporting Israeli settlements. In a March 26 statement, the Iranian Foreign Ministry announced sanctions on “companies directly or indirectly participating in brutal Israeli crimes in occupied Palestine or that have backed terrorism by [Israel] or have violated United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334 regarding the expansion of illegal settlements in occupied Palestine.”
The ministry's statement said that the new US sanctions on Iranian individuals and companies were “against international law and contradictory to the text and spirit of the comprehensive nuclear agreement.” On March 24, the US State Department had announced that the Iran-related sanctions included 11 companies in China, North Korea and the United Arab Emirates that were working with Iran’s ballistic missile program. The Iranian Foreign Ministry statement said that Iran has a “legal right to defense” in pursuing its missile program, particularly against any foreign intervention on its territory.
The Iranian sanctions apply to the following 15 US-based firms for either collaborating with the Israeli military or selling and providing the Israeli government arms or advanced weaponry:
- Beni Tal Security
- United Technologies
- ITT Corporation
- Oshkosh Corporation
- Magnum Research
- Kahr Arms
- M7 Aerospace LP
- Military Armament Corporation
- Lewis Machine and Tool Company
- Daniel Defense
- Bushmaster Firearms
- O.F. Mossberg & Sons
- H-S Precision
Given that the United States already has a number of sanctions in place against Iran unrelated to the nuclear deal, Iran has very little, or nothing at all, to lose by imposing reciprocal sanctions. They are more of a political gesture designed to respond to the sanctions on Iran’s missile program that have been applied routinely from one US administration to the other. In tying the sanctions on the United States to firms that specifically work with the Israeli government and its settlements, which have been condemned by the United Nations, Iran is able to score political points by raising the Palestinian issue while simultaneously invoking the position of an international body.
The additional sanctions being put forward in the bipartisan US bill Countering Iran’s Destabilizing Activities of 2017 would designate the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), the elite military unit that reports directly to Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, as a terrorist group. While some have argued that these sanctions would risk violating the comprehensive nuclear agreement, Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., who co-authored the bill, said the legislation was written to avoid such an occurrence.
Iranian officials seem poised to also reciprocate the measure by the United States to sanction the IRGC. On March 25, Alaeddin Borujerdi, head of the Iranian parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, said that after the Iranian New Year holidays in early April, he will pursue sanctions against the US military and the CIA. Borujerdi noted that the US military is involved in a number of wars — in Iraq, Syria and Yemen — and accused it of becoming a “big supporter of terrorists” in the Middle East.
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