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US slams Iran with fresh sanctions

US vows to "continue to ratchet up the pressure" on Iran's controversial nuclear program.

Iran oil prices hike 2012 02 20Enlarge
Iran insists its nuclear program is peaceful and was enraged by the EU’s decision in January to impose a boycott on its oil. It responded by threatening to close the Strait of Hormuz (pictured), the primary Gulf oil shipping lane. (MARWAN NAAMANI/AFP/Getty Images)

The United States today hit Iran with a raft of economic restrictions, reported the Associated Press, a move that comes within weeks of a July 1 European Union oil embargo on Islamic Republic.

Western countries fear Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons, a charge Tehran denies. The issue has prompted a series of Western-backed multilateral sanctions over the years, but the decades-long standoff has recently become front-and-central for the US and Iran as the two play war games in the Persian Gulf. 

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The new sanctions will affect 11 companies tied to the Iranian government as well as a shipping agency, a technical university, and four individuals, according to the Associated Press. Oil prices rallied on the news, reported Bloomberg

Top US Treasury official David Cohen told AP that "we will continue to ratchet up the pressure so long as Iran refuses to address the international community's well-founded concerns about its nuclear program," adding that the new measures are "taking direct aim at disrupting Iran's nuclear and ballistic missile programs as well as its deceptive efforts to use front companies to sell and move its oil."

Wired's Robert Beckhusen, however, cautioned against over-hyping Iran's purported technical capabilities. Referring to the recently released 2012 Annual Report on Military Power of Iran, Beckhusen concluded that "the Pentagon no longer believes a future Iranian missile will be able to strike America," noting, "there’s no reference to such a missile being able to hit any place outside of the Middle East or Eastern Europe," and even that, he claims is worth a little "skepticism." After all, the Islamic Republic, he wrote, "wants you think its missiles are pretty great."

This does not stop Western countries from seeking an end to Iran's believed quest for nuclear weapons, however. Today, the US went so far as to sanction several companies based in Hong Kong, Switzerland and Malaysia that US officials believe are serving as fronts for the Iranian government, reported AP

More from GlobalPost: Iran and the nuclear double standard

The US also singled out four men for punishment: Iranian software engineer Hamid Reza Rabiee, Austrian Daniel Frosch of International General Resourcing FZE, Revolutionary Guard naval commander Ali Fadavi, and Hossein Tanideh, a former vice president of Pentane Chemistry Industries, according to AP

Also today, Bloomberg reported that Abu Dhabi will be able to export oil through a pipeline that avoids the Strait of Hormuz -- a vital waterway shared by Iran and Oman and which the Islamic Republic has threatened to shut down in retaliation for sanctions. 

The new $3 billion pipeline is set to open July 15, according to Bloomberg

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/americas/united-states/120712/us-slams-iran-fresh-sanctions