US President Barack Obama [official website; JURIST news archive] on Tuesday announced [press release] two new economic sanctions [White House backgrounder] on Iran's oil exports that aim to cut the country's financial transactions with the Chinese and Iraqi banks allegedly doing business with Tehran. In the first of these orders President Obama explained that the penalties against Iranian energy and petrochemical sectors were designed "to deter Iran from establishing payment mechanisms for the purchase of Iranian oil to circumvent existing sanctions." In the second the President announced that the Department of the Treasury [official website] had taken additional measures by penalizing China's Bank of Kunlun and Iraq's Elaf Islamic Bank [corporate websites] under the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act of 2010 (CISADA) [text, PDF] for facilitating "transactions worth millions of dollars on behalf of Iranian banks that are subject to sanctions for their links to Iran's illicit proliferation activities." The US House of Representatives as well as the Senate passed [Reuters report] Obama's new sanctions on Wednesday, and the President is expected to sign both on Thursday. China is overtly dissatisfied with the US actions, and in a statement [text] from the Chinese Foreign Ministry [official website], spokesman Qin Gang declared that the sanctions "badly violate rules governing international relations and hurt China's interests," and that the country intends to "raise solemn representations to the US from both Beijing and Washington."
This is not the first time the Obama administration has taken measures to pressure Iran's financial means. In February the President signed [JURIST report] an executive order [text] that imposed similar sanctions as part of an effort to enforce December's National Defense Authorization Act for 2012 [text, PDF], which allows such punitive measures to be taken. Obama justified the sanctions to Congress by explaining [statement] that Iranian banks had been misleading in their dealings, including a practice of concealing prohibited transactions and intentionally implementing inadequate anti-money laundering protocols. Specifically, those sanctions block any property of Iran or its banks that fall under US jurisdiction. Though controversial, the NDAA was signed into law [JURIST report] as part of the President's pledge that "all necessary and appropriate force" may be used to detain those suspected of terrorism.