WASHINGTON (CN) – President Barack Obama has frozen all assets belonging to the government of Iran, the Central Bank of Iran and any Iranian financial institutions within the jurisdiction of the United States.
In an executive order announcing the freeze, Obama also banned all donations meant to alleviate the effects of the freeze on assets.
While Obama cited “the deceptive practices” of the Central Bank of Iran and other Iranian banks to conceal transactions prohibited under previous sanctions, and deficiencies in Iran’s anti-money laundering regime, the order comes amid increasing tension over Iran’s nuclear activities.
In a press briefing Monday, Press Secretary Jay Carney denied that the order was directly intended to head off possible military strikes by Israel by pressuring Iran on the nuclear issue.
“There has been a steady increase in our sanctions activity, and this is part of that escalation and it’s not related to — specifically to that issue or the questions about it,” Carney said.
Neither the White House nor the Treasury Department announced the value of the assets frozen by the order.
This is the second time all of the U.S. assets of the government of Iran have been frozen; the first was in 1979 after the U.S. embassy in Tehran was seized.
That freeze was lifted in 1981 by President Ronald Reagan after the hostages were released.
Obama’s order does not apply to Iranian funds held in escrow in the U.S. to settle the claims of American businesses and individuals who lost assets after the embassy takeover.