White House adds sanctions on Iran's currency, auto sector

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"The idea here is to make the rial essentially unusable outside of Iran," a senior administration official said following the announcement.

The order also, for the first time, imposes sanctions against people who seek to do business with the country's automotive sector and those that provide material service to the Iranian government. Previously, the Obama administration has imposed sanctions on people that gave support to the Central Bank of Iran and the government-owned oil company.

People or companies that assist Iran or do business with its money could be shut out of the American financial system.

The president's order excludes from the sanctions work related to the building of a gas pipeline from Azerbaijan to Turkey and Europe, in which a subsidiary of the National Iranian Oil Company owns a small stake. Congress has previously exempted that pipeline from previous sanctions. A senior administration official maintained that sanctions are not necessary because the pipeline is not a major revenue generator for the Iranian government.

The Obama administration has used sanctions to destabilize the Iranian economy and force it to halt its efforts to be able to create a nuclear weapon.

"The Iranian rial has been hit hard, losing about two-thirds of its value in the last two years," added the senior administration official. "We know this is a key vulnerability for the Iranian government."

The sanctions will take effect July 1, as will a previously announced ban on private sales of gold to Iran.

Monday's order was the ninth Obama has signed targeting Iran, and the sixth in the last two years. It comes less than two weeks before Iran holds a presidential election on June 14. Administration officials denied that the order was timed to disrupt Iran's domestic politics.

Last week, the administration issued a number of orders to equip Iranian citizens with communications tools like cellphones and laptops. That action was designed to "empower" citizens and help them evade government censorship.