US slaps sanctions on Iranian procurement 'networks'

US Treasury sanctions two Iranian regime-linked networks and associated individuals for "engaging in covert procurement activities benefiting multiple Iranian military organizations."

WASHINGTON D.C. - The United States on Wednesday imposed sanctions on two networks it says evaded sanctions to benefit Iran's government and military organizations, the Treasury Department said.

One of the networks, led by Iranian national Hamed Dehghan, used a Hong Kong-based front company to evade US and international sanctions and target US technology and components for people tied to Iran's government and its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the US Treasury Department said in a statement.

The other network, led by Seyed Hossein Shariat, obtained controlled aluminum alloy products for companies owned or controlled by Iran's defense ministry, the department said.

The US Treasury Department also slapped sanctions on other individuals connected to the two networks.

The sanctions are part of a US campaign to increase economic pressure on Tehran over its nuclear program. Washington ditched a 2015 nuclear deal with Iran and five other countries and has ratcheted up sanctions on the country, including penalties on Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

On Monday, Trump said at a news conference that he would be open to meeting with Iran's President Hassan Rouhani, but Rouhani reiterated he would only be open to talks if Washington first dropped sanctions against Tehran.

On Wednesday Rouhani called on Iranians to unite to overcome an "economic war" waged by the US, while his government said it would use diplomacy to try to solve the standoff even though it distrusted President Donald Trump.

"We need to unite to fight against and to win this economic war that America has launched against Iran," Rouhani said in a televised speech.

Iran's government spokesman Ali Rabie said on Wednesday: "Taking into account Donald Trump's personal traits, we don't trust him; however, Iran has never abandoned diplomacy but we are determined to pursue it as an equal (of the United States)," state TV reported.

Iran describes the US sanctions as "economic warfare". Since ditching the nuclear deal last year, Trump has pursued a policy of "maximum pressure" to try to force Iran into broader talks to restrict its ballistic missile program and end its support for proxy forces in countries around the Middle East.

Iran, which has slowly been breaching the nuclear deal in retaliation for US sanctions, has threatened further violations in early September unless it receives sanctions relief.