The US Treasury says it is imposing new ballistic missile sanctions on Iran after Tehran released five American prisoners. The move also comes less than a day after some of the sanctions imposed on Iran over its nuclear program were removed by the US and EU.
Washington has imposed sanctions on 11 companies and individuals for helping to supply Iran's ballistic missile program, the Treasury Department stated.
“Iran's ballistic missile program poses a significant threat to regional and global security, and it will continue to be subject to international sanctions," Adam J. Szubin, acting Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, said in a press release.
“We have consistently made clear that the United States will vigorously press sanctions against Iranian activities outside of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action – including those related to Iran's support for terrorism, regional destabilization, human rights abuses, and ballistic missile program."
The Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control says it will also block the assets of Mabrooka Trading, a company based in the United Arab Emirates, for providing Iran with parts used in their ballistic missiles. Others sanctioned include companies and individuals involved in the program, which supervised the testing of two ballistic missiles in 2015.
President Barack Obama's administration delayed implementing the sanctions for more than two weeks, while negotiations to release two US prisoners being held in Iran were taking place, Reuters reported, citing its sources.
The US move comes after an Iranian missile test carried out in October that broke a UN Security Council resolution restricting the development of missiles that are capable of carrying nuclear warheads.
On December 31, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said that Tehran should expand its missile program in response of US threats to introduce new sanctions.
Iran needs to step up its missile capabilities in response to aggressive actions by the US, which is threatening to impose more sanctions over a missile test that Iran held in October, Rouhani wrote in a letter addressed to Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan. The president says Iran has a right to continue developing its missiles since they are not capable of carrying nuclear warheads.
“As the US government is clearly still pursuing its hostile policies and illegal meddling ... the armed forces need to quickly and significantly increase their missile capability," Rouhani wrote.