By Alexander Cornwell
DUBAI – The United States will send a senior government delegation to the United Arab Emirates next week to meet with banks over concerns about Iran sanctions compliance, a State Department spokesperson said on Thursday, as nuclear talks with Iran stall.
The move suggests Washington is looking to crank up economic pressure on Tehran amid Western doubts about Tehran’s determination to salvage the 2015 nuclear accord.
It also comes as the UAE, a U.S. ally, works to improve ties with neighbour Iran in a bid to contain regional tensions.
The U.S. delegation, which will include the head of the U.S. 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 penalised 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 programme 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-U.S. president Donald Trump quit the nuclear agreement.
Under the pact, Iran agreed with major powers that it would curb its nuclear programme 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 in Vienna on reviving the deal but they have shown little progress.
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.
U.S. 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 U.S. official told Reuters.