* Sanctions on nuclear program lock up Iran oil revenues
* Broadcast agency, Iran cyber police also targeted
* Forcing Iran to buy goods from its oil customers
By Timothy Gardner
WASHINGTON, Feb 6 The United States said on
Wednesday it had sanctioned Iran's main agency in charge of
broadcasting for helping the government censor Western reports,
part of a broader effort by Washington to pressure Tehran's
The U.S. Treasury Department also said sanctions that
shackle Iran's oil earnings took effect, as scheduled, on
Wednesday. Iran's earnings now have to be credited to accounts
in countries that buy Iranian crude.
Under the conditions, Tehran can only use the funds to buy
goods from its oil customers, preventing the money from being
repatriated and used on the nuclear program the West believes is
developing weapons. Iran says the program is for purely civilian
"This will significantly restrict Iran's ability to make use
of the oil revenue that it's earning," a senior U.S. official
told reporters about the sanctions.
In its crackdown on Iran's state-sponsored media, the
Treasury named the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting, its
director, Ezzatollah Zarghami, and others as subject to
sanctions that effectively block their access to the U.S.
Human rights groups have said Iran is using state media
reports to trample dissent, and have pointed to forced
confessions of political detainees in front of state media
Iran is using social media to hunt down political activists
and is engaged in a campaign to filter out unwanted television
content, the senior U.S. official said. After Iran's 2009
presidential election, the government increased its jamming of
foreign channels, including the BBC and Voice of America, the
The United States will target people and organizations in
Iran "responsible for human right abuses, especially those who
deny the Iranian people their basic freedoms of expression,
assembly and speech," said David Cohen, the undersecretary for
terrorism and financial intelligence at the Treasury.
The new sanctions also target the Iranian Cyber Police, a
unit formed in 2009 that has hacked into email accounts related
to political action, deleted anti-government blogs and arrested
bloggers, the Treasury said. The Iran Electronics Industries,
which the Treasury said had helped the government crush activism
by monitoring text messages, was also targeted by the sanctions.
Iran's currency, the rial, has lost about half its value
against the dollar in the past year as U.S. and EU sanctions
halved the country's oil exports.
The new sanctions on oil revenues do not specifically try to
deepen cuts in Iran's oil exports.
But the measures could reward Iran's oil customers for
working with the United States on the sanctions by forcing
Tehran to buy their products. "By bottling up this revenue in
each one of these countries, it will I think enhance the
attractiveness of the goods they sell to Iran," he said.
The extra revenues from sales of their goods could make it
easier for India, Turkey and South Korea and other Iran oil
customers to continue to seek alternatives to Iranian oil even
if petroleum prices go higher.
Washington is expected to keep pressuring Iran's customers
to make deeper cuts, as dictated by the U.S. sanctions law.
The new measure has not sat well with all of Iran's
customers. India, Iran's second largest oil customer, plans to
seek an exception to the new provision [ID:nL4N09T3CV}
The United States has granted all 20 of Iran's major oil
buyers 180-day exemptions to the sanctions in return for their
reduced purchases of the petroleum. The exceptions to China,
India and others were granted in December.