WASHINGTON, July 13 (Reuters) - The United States this week took additional measures to prevent Iran from circumventing economic sanctions to stop the country from acquiring nuclear weapons. The U.S. Treasury identified Tehran's main tanker firm - National Iranian Tanker Company - and dozens of its vessels as government-controlled entities. The U.S. Treasury also identified four fronts for the National Iranian Oil Company.
WHY IDENTIFY NITC AS GOVERNMENT ENTITY IF SANCTIONS ALREADY IN FORCE?
Identifying NITC as an Iranian government-controlled entity is largely symbolic as the company has already been blacklisted by the United States.
The U.S. government had already frozen their assets in the United States and all U.S. persons and companies were already barred from doing business with the Iranian entities. The identification serves as a reminder of this.
However, the blacklisting does not mean that non-U.S. companies and entities dealing with NITC and NIOC will be cut off from the U.S. financial system. There is no U.S. punishment for foreign entities that do not comply, except for risk to their reputation.
WHAT ARE THE RAMIFICATIONS FOR IDENTIFYING NITC'S FLEET?
Identifying NITC's fleet and other affiliates as government-controlled exposes the number of vessels and companies that are acting on behalf of the Iranian government.
U.S. entities are already prohibited from doing business with these affiliates. Naming and identifying the 50-plus NITC vessels helps foreign entities ensure that they are not inadvertently helping Iran evade Western sanctions by selling their oil under another name.
If a country such as Japan, which reduced its Iranian oil imports in order to comply with the U.S. economic sanctions, wants to ensure it is not buying Iranian oil, the names of the ships and companies will help it identify the source of the oil.
However, if foreign entities do business with these vessels they will not be punished by the United States and will not be cut off from U.S. markets.
WHAT ARE THE RAMIFICATIONS FOR IDENTIFYING FRONTS FOR NIOC?
Again, naming the four companies - Malaysian-based Noor Energy, Petro Suisse, Dubai-based Petro Energy and Hong Kong Intertrade - as fronts for the NIOC as an Iranian government-controlled oil company makes it easier for foreign entities to stop doing business with them.
But if foreign entities do business with these front companies, they will not be barred from U.S. markets. (Reporting by Rachelle Younglai; Editing by Jackie Frank)