The United States blacklisted an affluent Iranian business executive and what it described as his multibillion-dollar money laundering network on Thursday, accusing them of selling oil for Iran in violation of the Western economic sanctions imposed over Iran's disputed nuclear program.
The Treasury Department, which administers the government's Iran sanctions, said the executive, Babak Morteza Zanjani, had conspired with First Islamic Investment Bank of Malaysia and what the department called an international network of front companies stretching halfway around the world "for moving billions of dollars on behalf of the Iranian regime."
President Obama said last month that his administration believed it would take "over a year or so" for Iran to achieve that ability, and sanctions advocates said the Treasury's focus on starving Iran financially appeared to be part of that calculus.
"The Obama administration is committed to targeting the oil-related payments that are essential to Iran's ability to replenish its dwindling foreign exchange reserves," said Mark Dubowitz, the executive director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a Washington-based advocacy group that has pushed for stronger sanctions.
Mr. Dubowitz said, "The administration is in a race to intensify the pressure, and try to reach a diplomatic deal, before Iranian nuclear physics wins."