U.S. Official Warns Against Russian Companies Engaging in Iran

David Cohen, the Obama administration’s top official for terrorism and financial intelligence, warned that any Russian companies engaging in deals with Iran would be subject to U.S. penalties.

Russia and Iran signed a five-year memorandum of understanding to expand trade cooperation, the Russian Energy Ministry said on Aug. 5. Russia will help organize Iranian oil sales under the agreement including in Russia, as suggested by the Persian Gulf state, the ministry said in a later statement, without elaborating.

“It is almost certain that any entity involved in any such deal would be exposing itself to U.S. sanctions, possibly to sanctions from others as well,” Cohen, a Treasury undersecretary, said during a conference call with reporters today. “We have been very clear in communications with the Russians at the highest level that they ought not move forward with any such deal.”

The accord, which may turn Russia into the biggest importer of oil from Iran, comes at the time when the country is also countering the U.S. and European sanctions over Ukraine with a ban on a range of food products.

The prohibition will deepen Russia’s international isolation and boost its inflation at a time when foreign and Russian investors are avoiding investment in the country, Jason Furman, chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, said on the same call.

Given that the U.S. economy is diversified and exports to Russia are only one-tenth of 1 percent of U.S. gross domestic product, neither sanctions on Russia nor its retaliation are having a significant impact on the American economy, Furman also said.

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