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U.S. Pressures Iran With More Sanctions, $15 Million Reward

WASHINGTON, The U.S. State and Treasury departments on September 4 exerted more pressure on Iran with additional sanctions and monetary rewards for actionable information on what they call Tehran's oil-for-terror network.

More than 25 entities and 11 vessels were sanctioned that the Treasury Department says is part of a network directed by and [which] financially supports the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps' (IRGC) foreign arm, the Qods Force, and the Iranian-backed Lebanese militia movement Hizballah.

This network has moved hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of illicit oil. That money is then used to fund terrorism, Brian Hook, the State Department's special representative for Iran, said in a briefing on September 4.

In spring alone, the network employed more than a dozen vessels to transport nearly 10 million barrels of crude oil, predominantly to the Syrian regime. These shipments, taken collectively, sold for more than half a billion dollars," according to the Treasury Department.

Iran's former Oil Minister Rostam Qasemi and his son Morteza, are among those hit by the sanctions.

Also targeted are subsidiaries of an Indian firm with an interest in the Adrian Darya 1, the Iranian tanker the authorities in Gibraltar detained in July on suspicion it was carrying oil to Syria in violation of EU sanctions.

The restrictive measures froze any assets in the United States of the designated individuals and entities and exposed individuals or companies to sanctions if they do business with them.

A reward of up to $15 million is being offered for actionable information leading to the disruption of the financial mechanisms of the IRGC and Qods Force.

This includes oil sales and tankers that transport Iranian-sourced oil.

Noting that both IRGC and Qods in April were designated terrorist groups, Hook said this is the first time the United States has offered a reward for information that disrupts a government entity's financial operations.

The move comes a day after Washington announced sanctions on Iran's civilian space agency and two of its research institutes, saying they are being used to advance Tehran's missile program.

Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif called the punitive measures "totally ineffective."

Hook said the main goal of the government's maximum pressure campaign on Iran is to deny the regime revenue to fund its foreign operations and bring Tehran back to the negotiating table to reach a new and comprehensive agreement on its nuclear and missiles programs.

The United States last year withdrew from a landmark nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers, and has since reimposed and tightened sanctions.

Tehran has indicated it won't join multilateral talks until the sanctions are lifted.

Meanwhile, Iranian President Hassan Rohani said as of September 6, Tehran will begin developing centrifuges to speed up uranium enrichment, as the country's "third step" to scale back its commitments under the 2015 nuclear deal.

"From Friday, we will witness research and development on different kinds of centrifuges and new centrifuges and also whatever is needed for enriching uranium in an accelerated way," Rohani said on September 4.

"All limitations on our research and development will be lifted," he said.

Copyright (c) 2015. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036.