The U.S. Treasury will send its top national security official to the United Arab Emirates and Israel this weekend to brief government officials on new U.S. actions to increase financial pressure on Iran.
The Treasury said David Cohen, undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, will discuss the Obama administration's decision to declare Iran a jurisdiction of "primary money laundering concern" during the Nov. 26-29 trip.
He also will discuss expanded sanctions to ban firms from aiding Iran's oil and petrochemical industries.
The actions were announced on Monday as part of a coordinated effort with Britain and Canada to increase pressure on Tehran in response to a Nov. 8 International Atomic Energy Agency report that presented intelligence suggesting that Iran had worked on designing a nuclear bomb and may still be secretly carrying out related research.
The U.S. decision to declare Iran as an area of "primary money laundering concern" under the USA Patriot Act is a step designed to dissuade non-U.S. banks from dealing with Iran. It stopped short of blacklisting Iran's central bank, but brands Iran's banking sector as posing unacceptable risks of terrorist financing, weapons proliferation and money laundering.
"Our action, along with those taken by the U.K and Canada, should have a chilling effect on the willingness of foreign financial institutions to do business with Iranian banking institutions," Cohen said in a blog posting on the U.S. Treasury website.
"Foreign banks in jurisdictions where there may not be comprehensive sanctions on Iran are now much more likely to make the judgment that Iran is an increasingly risky place to do business," he added.
The United Arab Emirates, with its financial hubs in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, is one of the Middle East's largest banking centers and has traditionally had deep trade, business and financial ties with Iran, just across the Arabian Gulf.
Previous U.S. sanctions, which effectively prohibit international firms from doing business with blacklisted Iranian institutions for fear of losing access to the U.S. financial system, have caused difficulties for UAE companies.
Treasury officials have made frequent trips to Dubai and Abu Dhabi in recent years to persuade officials and institutions to comply with U.S. sanctions and help stop Iran's efforts to circumvent them.
In Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday called for "even tougher" sanctions than those announced by the United States, Britain and Canada. He did not elaborate on what steps should be taken.
The U.S. Treasury said Cohen also will consult with senior UAE and Israeli officials on options that the United States is exploring to boost pressure further on Iran, including possible financial measures targeting Iran's central bank.
Cohen also will discuss efforts by Syria to circumvent U.S. and European Union sanctions aimed at halting government violence against Syrian people.