The US administration has asked foreign governments to submit detailed reports on humanitarian exports to Iran, a step observers said could have an alarming effect and cast a pall over European efforts to allow trade.
The administration of US President Donald Trump announced a new “humanitarian mechanism" that would help the Iranian people by facilitating “legitimate" trade.
Despite tight sanctions imposed on Tehran, the administration explained that this new mechanism would not threaten food, medicine and other humanitarian goods.
Most companies are unwilling to conduct any trade with Iran for fearing of coming under US sanctions.
US officials said the new mechanism will allow foreign governments and banks to reduce their risks by showing their transactions to Washington, which would certify they are in compliance with sanctions.
“A new humanitarian channel will make it easier for foreign governments, financial institutions and private companies to engage in legitimate humanitarian trade on behalf of the Iranian people while reducing the risk that money ends up in the wrong hands,” Brian Hook, the State Department point man on Iran, said in a statement.
AFP reported on Saturday that in order to seek certification, each institution will need to submit “substantial and unprecedented” information on a monthly basis, including all invoices and details on their customers — including whether they appeared on any US, EU or UN blacklists in the previous five years.
Brian O’Toole, a senior Treasury Department adviser dealing with sanctions under former president Barack Obama, said the measure looked like it was aimed more at gathering intelligence than helping ordinary Iranians and expected many foreign banks would be unable to provide the level of detail required.
“I think this is going to have a chilling effect. It will have the exact opposite effect of what they’re claiming it will,” added O’Toole, now a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council think tank.
O’Toole, the former Treasury adviser, revealed that the measure also looked like it was aimed at countering INSTEX, a channel set up by European powers to skirt unilateral US sanctions.
“This is clearly saying — okay, we told you INSTEX is bad, this is what you should use, never mind the invasion of US government sovereignty on you,” he said.