Trump administration hits Iran's central bank with terror sanctions

The Trump administration designated the head of Iran’s central bank a terrorist Tuesday, slapping on sanctions intended to further isolate Iran from the global financial system.

The Treasury Department named Valiollah Seif a “specially designated global terrorist” who is being accused of helping transfer millions of dollars to Hezbollah, the Iran-backed militant group. Seif is the governor of the Iranian central bank.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Seif “covertly funneled” money from Iran’s Revolutionary Guards through al-Bliad Islamic Bank in Iraq to help Hezbollah. The Iraqi bank and its chairman also are being punished with sanctions.

"It is appalling, but not surprising, that Iran’s senior-most banking official would conspire with the IRGC-QF to facilitate funding of terror groups like Hezbollah, and it undermines any credibility he could claim in protecting the integrity of the institution as a central bank governor,” Mnuchin said in a statement Tuesday.  “The United States will not permit Iran’s increasingly brazen abuse of the international financial system. The global community must remain vigilant against Iran’s deceptive efforts to provide financial support to its terrorist proxies.”

The U.S. also said it is imposing so-called secondary sanctions on Seif, meaning anyone who does business with him could be cut off from the U.S. financial system.

President Trump last week pulled out of the Obama-era Iran nuclear agreement. The 2015 pact lifted most U.S. and international sanctions against the country, in exchange for Iran agreeing to restrictions on its nuclear program making it impossible to produce a bomb, along with rigorous inspections – terms generally set for 10-15 years.

“At the heart of the Iran deal was a giant fiction, that a murderous regime desired only a peaceful, nuclear energy program,” Trump said Tuesday. “Today, we have definitive proof that this Iranian promise was a lie.”

The Treasury Department said a restoration of some sanctions will go into effect after a 90-day countdown, with the rest kicking in after a 180-day wind-down period. Once sanctions are re-imposed, the U.S. effectively would be out of the deal.

During his speech announcing the U.S. withdrawal, Trump called Iran “the leading state sponsor of terror.”

“It exports dangerous missiles, fuels conflicts across the Middle East, and supports terrorist proxies and militias, such as Hezbollah, Hamas, the Taliban and Al Qaeda,” he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.