Yellen Says US Is Not Ruling Out New Sanctions Against Iran

(Bloomberg) — US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said the Biden administration hasn’t ruled out new sanctions against Iran in relation to renewed conflict in the Middle East, but no decisions have been made.

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“I wouldn’t take anything off the table in terms of future possible actions, but I certainly don’t want to get ahead of where we are now,” Yellen said during a press conference in Marrakech, Morocco.

Following the surprise Oct. 7 attack on Israel by Hamas militants, for which Iran has voiced its approval, speculation has grown over whether the US would tighten its restrictions on Iranian oil exports.

Speaking to reporters at the annual meetings for the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, Yellen said the US focus is currently on the humanitarian aspects of the crisis.

More than 2,000 people have reportedly been killed since the start of the worst attack on Israel in decades. Israeli forces have since been battling to retake captured territory and signs are mounting it’s preparing for a ground invasion of Gaza.

The conflict and the reaction from financial markets adds another threat to a fragile global economy, which is still recovering from the Covid-19 pandemic and fallout from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Uncertainty in the oil market has put traders on edge for signs that Iran, a supporter of Hamas, was directly involved in the attack. Iran has denied involvement and the White House has no confirmation the nation directed the assault.

Yellen downplayed concerns over the conflict’s potential to upend the global economy.

“We’re monitoring potential economic impacts from the crisis, but I’m not really thinking of that as a major likely driver of the global economic outlook,” she said.

Yellen’s remarks on Iran came in response to a question about $6 billion in Iranian oil sale proceeds that had been frozen but recently made available to Tehran.

“Those are funds that are sitting in Qatar were made available purely for humanitarian purposes,” she said. “Those funds have not been touched.”

–With assistance from Rob Verdonck.

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