The Biden administration is moving to tighten enforcement of sanctions against Iran with the dispatch of a senior delegation to the United Arab Emirates next week, the US State Department said on Thursday.
The move comes as the UAE, a US ally, works to improve ties with Iran in a bid to contain regional tensions and amid Western doubts about Tehran’s determination to salvage a 2015 nuclear agreement.
The US delegation, which will include the head of the US Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, Andrea Gacki, will warn banks in the UAE that have business with Iran and are not in compliance with the sanctions.
A State Department spokesperson said the United States had evidence of non-compliance, and that the banks could later be sanctioned or penalized over their dealings.
UAE authorities did not respond to a request for comment.
While the UAE shares the concerns of Gulf power Saudi Arabia over Iran’s nuclear ambitions, missiles program and regional proxies, Abu Dhabi has intensified its outreach to Tehran and sent a senior official to Iran last Monday.
The UAE, which has business ties to Iran stretching back over a century, had in 2018 said it was fully complying with sanctions reimposed on Iran after then-US president Donald Trump quit the nuclear agreement.
Under the pact, Iran agreed with major powers that it would curb its nuclear program in return for the lifting of international economic sanctions.
About a year after Washington reimposed sanctions, Iran started violating the nuclear restrictions. Tehran denies seeking nuclear weapons.
Talks are being held in Vienna on reviving the deal, but have shown little advance so far.
If there is no progress in these talks, the United States could send delegations to several other countries to tighten the economic pressure on Iran, the Wall Street Journal reported.
US and Israeli defense chiefs were expected on Thursday to discuss possible military exercises to prepare for a worst-case scenario of destroying Iran’s nuclear facilities if diplomacy fails, a senior US official told Reuters.
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