The Obama administration is preparing new U.S. sanctions on corporations and individuals connected with Iran's ballistic missile program, news media reported on December 30.
The Wall Street Journal and the Reuters news agency reported that the planned sanctions would target about a dozen companies and individuals in Iran, Hong Kong, and the United Arab Emirates for their alleged role in helping Iran develop ballistic missiles.
U.S. officials have said the Treasury Department retains a right under July's nuclear agreement between Iran and world powers to blacklist entities suspected of involvement in Iran's missile development.
Iranian officials have insisted that their ballistic missile program does not violate United Nations sanctions and the country's supreme leader would view any new sanctions as violating the nuclear accord.
UN sanctions monitors said on December 15 that a medium-range Emad rocket that Iran tested on October 10 was a ballistic missile capable of delivering a nuclear warhead, making it a violation of a UN Security Council resolution.
The United States and its allies have pushed for new UN sanctions over the missile test. But while it is possible for the UN sanctions committee to blacklist additional Iranian entities over the missile launch, UN diplomats say Russia and China have opposed the sanctions on Iran's missile program and might block any new action.
The Obama administration is under strong pressure from the Republican-led Congress to act on the missile test violation documented by the UN.
Republican leaders contend that, if current UN sanctions aren't enforced, no one can be confident that the curbs on Iran's nuclear activities under the nuclear deal will be applied.
The White House has warned that the United States might move on its own if the UN fails to act.
The Wall Street Journal said the planned U.S. Treasury sanctions cover two networks linked to Iran that are developing the country's missile program and include many of the people in those networks.
The sanctions would prohibit U.S. or foreign nationals from conducting business with the companies. U.S. banks would also be required to freeze any assets the companies or individuals hold inside the American financial system.
Among those targeted would be Mabrooka Trading Co LLC, a company based in the United Arab Emirates, and its founder, Hossein Pournaghshband, for aiding Iranian state companies in acquiring carbon fiber for Iran's missile program, the Wall Street Journal said.
The Treasury is also preparing to sanction five Iranian defense officials for work on the ballistic missile program, the newspaper added.
The Treasury will justify the new sanctions in part by citing ties between Iran and North Korea on missile development, it said.
With reporting by Wall Street Journal and Reuters