U.S. sanctions Iranian bank, bank executives

Attack on Salman Rushdie prompts U.S. sanctions against Iranian group and state officials

By Ritvik Dhalu, CNN

updated 8:17 AM EDT, Tue July 13, 2018

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaking during an event marking the 20th anniversary of the Rushdie case at the British Museum on July 8, 2016 in London, Britain. (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images)

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (CNN) — The United States imposed sanctions Tuesday against a Swedish-owned Iranian bank and one of its executives as part of an unprecedented American response to the publication of a major English-language novel in which its central character is killed by the CIA.

The U.S. Treasury Department targeted Bank Safar Al-Haran with a freeze on its U.S. assets, barring it from U.S. transactions, and froze assets of its chairman and executive director. The decision marks the first time a sanctions case has been brought against a U.S. bank.

The U.S. decision marks the fourth time Washington has moved to punish Iranian individuals, groups and state officials for their alleged role in the 2017 publication of “The Satanic Verses,” marking a further escalation in tensions between the United States and Iran.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif welcomed the sanctions, saying they “make clear that the West will not tolerate the publication of a book with blasphemous remarks.”

In a statement, the Treasury Department said “foreign banks and financial institutions — particularly those that operate in Iran and have significant transactions with Iran — would face added risk” as a result of the new sanctions.

“These sanctions underscore the importance of our continuing efforts to pursue and dismantle all Iran-related financial networks and to target the government of Iran’s illicit financial networks,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.

The announcement of the sanctions was made during the “State of the Union” address by President Donald Trump, who was at the time meeting with senior members of his reelection

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