However, the official said the United States had been asked to enforce sanctions without reliable help from allies and that traders are playing a “cat and mouse game” to avoid being followed at sea. The official spoke on condition of anonymity as Iran talks continued.
U.S. Navy and Coast Guard ships conducting security patrols in the Strait of Hormuz and the Persian Gulf faced Iranian military ships three times in the past month, exacerbating tensions which, if allowed to escalate, threaten the delicate nuclear negotiations in Vienna could. Twenty percent of the world’s oil supply – around 18 million barrels a day – flows through the strait.
Other world powers were reluctant to enforce sanctions imposed on their objections when the United States abandoned the nuclear deal in 2018. The most notable example was last fall when the Trump administration declared it had reimposed international sanctions on Iran, when the United Nations Security Council refused to recognize it.
The United States has also warned that it could impose what are known as secondary sanctions on foreign buyers of Iranian oil, which would exclude them from American markets and other US dollar transactions. That scared international companies unwilling to lose access to American banks, and some analysts said it hurt relations between the United States and European allies who had hoped the nuclear deal would open new economic markets for their industries in Iran would.
“If the United States tries to apply sanctions to everything and to tell the rest of the world what it can and can’t do, other countries might at some point push back and say, ‘We’ve had enough of it,” said Corinne A. Goldstein, sanctions expert and senior Counsel at Covington & Burling Law Firm, “I think the United States is risking losing the power of sanctions by abusing their use.”
Since January the Foreign Property Control Office of the Ministry of Finance has fined companies more than $ 2.1 million for violating their sanctions on Iran to try to settle or otherwise resolve cases, some of which started under President Barack Obama. The Treasury Department has decided about as many violations of Iranian sanctions for 2020 as a whole, including a $ 4.1 million settlement with Berkshire Hathaway after one of its Turkish subsidiaries was accused of selling goods to Iran and then trying to hide the transaction.
Elliott Abrams, who oversaw the drumbeat of sanctions against Iran towards the end of the Trump administration, said the fines blocked tens of billions of dollars in revenue for Tehran and limited Iran’s support for its nuclear and military programs, including its agent , one of the forces in the Middle East.