The United States government escalated enforcement of its Iran sanctions on Tuesday, adding eight Chinese companies, a Dubai company and two Dubai-based executives to blacklists for evading American restrictions on Iranian weapons, oil and banking transactions.
In coordinated announcements of the actions by the Treasury, State and Justice Departments, the government also offered a $5 million bounty for information leading to the arrest or conviction of Li Fangwei, a Chinese businessman also known as Karl Lee, a previous sanctions target, who is accused of abetting Iranian weapons procurement.
The announcements said that he owned the eight Chinese companies and that he had been charged in a previously sealed indictment with several federal offenses, including conspiracy to commit money laundering, bank fraud and wire fraud.
"My sense is that the Obama administration is trying to counter charges that it is willing to overlook all Iranian provocations in order to ensure that nothing interferes with a nuclear deal," said Mark Dubowitz, executive director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a Washington-based group that has advocated strong sanctions against Iran. "This may be part of that pushback strategy."