WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama's government is preparing fresh sanctions against Iran and some international companies and individuals over the Islamic republic's new ballistic program in violation of a United Nations resolution, sources in the United States Treasury Department said Wednesday.
The proposed sanctions, which come months after Iran and the six world powers signed a nuclear deal, present a first test whether Tehran will stay committed to the agreement likely to be implemented next month.
Ballistic missiles are sensitive with Iran because they could provide the delivery system for a nuclear warhead.
Wall Street Journal, which first reported the news related to fresh sanctions, said that the Treasury Department plan is "directed at nearly a dozen companies and individuals in Iran, Hong Kong and the United Arab Emirates".
They, the sources said, have been allegedly found involved in developing Iran's ballistic-missile program. The Wall Street Journal said that the proposed sanctions concerned two Iran-linked networks involved in developing the country's missile program.
If approved, the sanctions would prohibit US or foreign nationals from conducting business with the companies. US banks would also be required to freeze any assets the companies or individuals hold inside the American financial system.
US officials maintain that the Treasury Department is well within its rights to impose sanctions against Iranian entities suspected of involvement in missile development. Even July's landmark nuclear agreement safeguards those rights. As part of nuclear negotiations with world powers, Iran accepted an eight-year extension of a UN ban on its ballistic missile program.
Iranian officials have said the country's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei would view new penalties as violating the nuclear accord.
Among those targeted by the planned sanctions would be UAE-based Mabrooka Trading Co and its founder, Hossein Pournaghshband, for aiding Iranian state companies in acquiring carbon fiber for Iran's missile program.
The Treasury is also preparing to sanction five Iranian officials at the country's defense ministry and its subsidiaries for work on the ballistic-missile program, according to the newspaper.
Earlier this month, US officials said Iran may have tested a medium-range ballistic missile on Nov 21 in violation of UN resolutions.
The UNSC has banned all ballistic missile tests by Iran under a 2010 resolution that remains valid until a nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers is implemented.
As per the July accord, likely to be implemented in coming months, Iran must scale back its nuclear program to remove concerns it could be put to developing nuclear bombs.