Residential and commercial properties sit illuminated at night on the city skyline in Tehran, Iran (Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg)

Iran Denounces New U.S. Sanctions, Adds Some of Its Own

(Bloomberg) -- Iran struck back against new Trump administration sanctions against its ballistic missile program, calling them illegal and announcing sanctions of its own.

In a tit-for-tat move, Iran sanctioned seven entities and two individuals on Thursday, including Horacio Rozanski, chief executive officer of Booz Allen Hamilton Holding Corp., alleging human rights violations because the management consulting firm does work in Israel, a U.S. ally that Iran calls an oppressor of Palestinians. Kimberly West, a spokeswoman for Booz Allen, said the company had no comment.

The Trump administration announced Wednesday that it would continue waiving sanctions -- including restrictions on oil sales -- eased under the 2015 deal to curb Iran’s nuclear program. But the Treasury Department added some new sanctions aimed at Iran’s program to develop ballistic missiles, while the State Department condemned Tehran’s human rights record and its support for the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The latest row comes as Iranians prepare to vote Friday in the country’s presidential election, which pits moderate incumbent Hassan Rouhani, who helped orchestrate the nuclear agreement, against Ebrahim Raisi, who has the backing of Iranian hard-liners. Rouhani’s opponents have targeted the nuclear accord, saying he has failed to deliver on promises that the agreement would bring a boom in foreign investment and an improvement in living standards.

Iran’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement Thursday that the Islamic Republic’s efforts to strengthen its military capabilities, including ballistic missiles, aren’t a violation of the deal with the U.S. and five other world powers. The agreement had language discouraging ballistic missiles but not explicitly barring them.

The new sanctions against U.S. companies -- including Huntington Ingalls Industries Inc. and DynCorp International Inc. -- are mostly symbolic because the companies are barred from dealing with Iran because they have U.S. defense contracts.

In the U.S., the Treasury imposed sanctions on Wednesday against seven people linked to Iran’s ballistic missile program, including two senior defense officials and a China-based network that supports Iran’s military.

The latest developments came after a State Department finding in April that Iran is complying with its side of the nuclear deal. The U.S. is reviewing whether to continue honoring the accord, which President Donald Trump has called “the horrible Iran deal.”

“This administration is committed to countering Iran’s destabilizing behavior, such as Iran’s development of ballistic missiles and support to the Assad regime,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement on Wednesday. “It is alarming that individuals involved with Iran’s missile program are assisting the brutal Assad regime, and we are taking action to curtail this behavior.”

The administration won’t seek to reduce Iran’s crude sales “at this time,” in keeping with its commitments under the nuclear deal, according to the announcement. Still, there are sufficient other supplies in the market to meet crude demand if Iranian exports were targeted, according to the finding.

The U.S. will continue to “scrutinize Iran’s commitment” to the nuclear deal while developing a “comprehensive Iran policy,” Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Stuart Jones said in a statement Wednesday. “And above all, the United States will never allow the regime in Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon.”

The State Department also released a report on Iran’s human rights violations that’s required by Congress every six months. The report said Iran continues to inflict torture, execute children convicted of crimes, and detain people arbitrarily. “This pattern of behavior must come to an end,” the State Department said in the report.