US President Barack Obama [official website] signed an executive order [text] on Monday imposing strict sanctions on Iran as part of an effort to enforce a bill he signed into law in December 2011. The bill, National Defense Authorization Act for 2012 (NDAA) [SB 1867, PDF], allows for sanctions such as those ordered by Obama to be imposed on Iran. In a letter he sent to Congress, Obama explained [statement] that the sanctions were necessary because of the misleading practices of Iranian banks, including the Central Bank of Iran, which are alleged to employ practices involving the concealment of forbidden transactions and the placement of inadequate anti-money laundering protocols. The sanctions block any property of Iran or its banks that fall under US jurisdiction. Reports have indicated that the sanctions are an attempt to convince Iran to disassemble its nuclear program [AFP report] by placing a strain on its already struggling economy. Sanctions may also be imposed on other foreign banks that conduct business with the Central Bank of Iran.
The NDAA was not signed into law [JURIST report] without controversy. According to Obama, his administration will implement the controversial provisions, including that saying "all necessary and appropriate force" may be used to detain those suspected of terrorism, in a manner which will provide the maximum measure of flexibility. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) vigorously chastised the President stating that the statute is dangerous due to its lack of temporal or geographic limitations. Both houses of Congress reached an agreement [JURIST report] on the language of the NDAA's most controversial sections in mid-December. Earlier in December, the Senate Armed Services Committee unanimously approved [JURIST report] a provision in the NDAA that gives the military complete control and custody over terror suspects. Shortly before the SASC's decision, the ACLU issued a report [pdf] claiming that the US is diminishing its "core values" [JURIST report] with regard to various counterterrorism measures put in place during the 10 years since the 9/11 attacks.