By Bernie Becker - 01/23/12 06:30 PM EST
According to news reports from Iran, officials fired back over the new sanctions, dubbing them a Western attempt to fight a psychological war against Iran and declaring that other countries will pick up Europe’s slack when it comes to purchasing oil.
The Energy Information Administration says that the EU currently imports the second-largest amount of Iranian crude, taking in roughly 18 percent of Tehran’s exports between January and June of last year.
By themselves, Italy and Spain accounted for about 70 percent of the Iranian crude imported by the EU.
China imported 22 percent of Iranian crude during that same time period, the EIA said. Japan, India and South Korea also brought in a significant amount of crude from Iran.
In the sanctions announced Monday, the European Union said that countries that had already contracted to buy oil from Iran could do so until July 1. The new sanctions also forbid the trade of gold, diamonds and other precious metals with the Iranian central bank.
The new American penalties against Iran, tucked into the defense authorization bill that Congress passed late last year, mandates that the United States sanction foreign banks that engage in significant business with Tehran’s central bank.
Under the sanctions, authored by Sens. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), state-owned banks can only be penalized for oil-related transactions.
A Treasury official said last week that the Obama administration was already using the new sanctions to cut into Iran’s access to oil profits, and was working on regulations for the legislation.
The department on Monday also sanctioned Bank Tejarat, Iran's third-largest bank, for aiding Tehran's nuclear program.