Here’s Why the EU Stepped Up Pressure on Iran

On Monday, the 27-nation European Union announced a ban on imports of Iranian natural gas and imposed other restrictions on trade and financial dealings.

The ban included more than 30 firms and institutions that were earmarked for asset freezes in Europe; among them was the National Iranian Oil Company, one of the world’s largest crude exporters, and the National Iranian Tanker Company.

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According Reuters, both companies are key components of the Iranian oil industry and a main source of governmental income. Their importance has only grown in recent months as governments in Europe and the United States have tried to curb Iran’s access to cash.

In a press release, the EU explained its motivations behind the sanctions. “They are meant to persuade Iran to engage constructively by negotiating seriously and addressing the concerns of the international community,” said the statement.

While Iran has claimed it has no intention to use nuclear power for military purposes, both Europe and the United States have refused to lift sanctions.

However, Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said the new sanctions will not force Iran to stop enriching uranium to make nuclear fuel.

“These pressures are illogical, inhuman and without any principles and therefore futile and just strengthening the nation’s solidarity,” Mehmanparast told reporters in Tehran on Tuesday.

The United States imposed restrictions on NIOC last month. A statement made in September by the House Committee on Foreign Affairs said that the NIOC was attempting to evade Western sanctions to sell oil. The company, Chairman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen writes, “reflags and renames its vessels to hide their true ownership and engages in the same deceptive practices for which the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Line was sanctioned in 2010.”

Professor of economics at Boston University in London, Parvin Alizadeh told Al Jazeera, “These are the most far reaching sanctions since sanctions on the import of oil in July.”

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