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A handout image from the Iran International Photo Agency shows a view of the reactor building at the Bushehr nuclear power plant. Photo: IIPA via Getty Images

The U.S. Treasury on Thursday imposed a sweeping set of sanctions on 18 major Iranian banks in a move that could blow apart the international remnants of the country's 2015 nuclear deal.

Why it matters: "The move all but severs Iran from the global financial system, slashing the few remaining legal links it has and making it more dependent on informal or illicit trade," per Bloomberg.

  • "Some believe that Thursday’s action could destroy any chance of salvaging the accord by making it impossible for Iranian banks to have any relationships with their foreign counterparts," writes the AP.
  • The Treasury said in a statement that the sanctions "deny the Iranian government financial resources that may be used to fund and support its nuclear program, missile development, terrorism and terrorist proxy networks, and malign regional influence."

Flashback: The Trump administration reimposed sanctions against Iran last month as part of its "maximum pressure" campaign against the country. It said the sanctions were intended reinforce a 2007 UN arms embargo set to expire this month.

What they're saying: "Today’s action to identify the financial sector and sanction eighteen major Iranian banks reflects our commitment to stop illicit access to U.S. dollars," said Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin.

  • "Our sanctions programs will continue until Iran stops its support of terrorist activities and ends its nuclear programs. Today’s actions will continue to allow for humanitarian transactions to support the Iranian people."

Go deeper

Dion Rabouin, author of Markets
Jan 11, 2021 - Economy & Business

Criticism of the Fed is going mainstream

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Big names in the world of finance are beginning to call out the Fed and other central banks for their role in ramping up economic inequality and manipulating financial markets — a departure from the praise they received for most of last year.

Why it matters: Wall Street was the only pillar of solid support. Most Americans say they don't trust the Fed and politicians look to be taking aim at the central bank for overreaching with its unprecedented actions in March.

The Biden protection plan

Joe Biden announces his first run for the presidency in June 1987. Photo: Howard L. Sachs/CNP/Getty Images

The Joe Biden who became the 46th president on Wednesday isn't the same blabbermouth who failed in 1988 and 2008.

Why it matters: Biden now heeds guidance about staying on task with speeches and no longer worries a gaffe or two will cost him an election. His staff also limits the places where he speaks freely and off the cuff. This Biden protective bubble will only tighten in the months ahead, aides tell Axios.

Bush labels Clyburn the “savior” for Democrats

House Majority Whip James Clyburn takes a selfie Wednesday with former President George W. Bush. Photo: Patrick Semansky-Pool/Getty Images

Former President George W. Bush credited Rep. James Clyburn with being the "savior" of the Democratic Party, telling the South Carolinian at Wednesday's inauguration his endorsement allowed Joe Biden to win the party's presidential nomination.

Why it matters: The nation's last two-term Republican president also said Clyburn's nod allowed for the transfer of power, because he felt only Biden had the ability to unseat President Trump.

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