JERUSALEM, Israel -- With the U.S. leading the call for sanctions against Iran in hopes of impacting its nuclear weapons program, American grain and medical exports to Iran rose by one-third in 2012.
According to U.S. Census Bureau data, exports rose from $150.8 million to $199.5 million in the first eight months of 2012, Reuters reported.
Grain makes up the bulk of the increase, while exports of medicine and some humanitarian goods fell, partially because of U.S. financial sanctions that make payment difficult.
Sales of wheat and grains reached $89.2 million in August 2012, in stark contrast to last year when no wheat products, with the exception of maize, were exported to Iran. Without the grain sale, U.S. exports to Iran would have declined this year.
Nonetheless, sanctions have not impacted exports of some types of medical equipment and dairy products, which require special licensing from the U.S. Treasury Department.
In fact, dairy products, such as butter and cream, rose from $7.8 million to $20.3 million. Similarly, medical and dental products, including surgical and diagnostic equipment, rose significantly from $4.7 million to $8 million.
Kate Gould, leading lobbyist on Middle East Policy for the Friends Committee on National Legislation, complained that U.S. sanctions "have created a de-facto humanitarian banking blockade," Reuters reported.
But with Iran's larger banks blacklisted and smaller banking institutions less able to access foreign exchange, U.S. exporters are having a hard time collecting their money.
Iran recently imposed austerity measures to weather the impact of U.S. and E.U. sanctions. Iranian Foreign Minister Ramin Mehmanparast said Tuesday increasing sanctions will not deter its uranium enrichment program.
"They cannot force the Iranian nation to surrender and withdraw," Mehmanparast told reporters. "This sort of acts will encourage the Iranian nation to continue on its way, strongly."
Meanwhile, Israel welcomed the E.U.'s increased sanctions.
"They will have a significant effect on Iran's economy," one senior official predicted, Ynet reported.
"Europe's new sanctions are tightening the bolt," he said. "There's a sense that something is shifting in Iran…things are changing."
The European Union's latest sanctions ban the import of natural gas, a follow-up to a ban on Iranian oil imports, which took effect last summer. The E.U. also increased sanctions against Iranian banking, industrial, and shipping sectors.
In a statement released Monday, European Union leaders said the sanctions reflect Europe's "serious and deepening concerns" over Iran's nuclear programs, while noting the preference for a diplomatic rather than military resolution.
"Today's decisions target Iran's nuclear and ballistic programs and the revenues of the Iranian government for these programs," the statement read. "They are meant to persuade Iran to engage constructively by negotiating seriously and addressing the concerns of the international community. The sanctions are not aimed at the Iranian people."
"The objective of the EU remains to achieve a comprehensive, negotiated, long-term settlement, which restores international confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of the Iranian nuclear program, while respecting Iran's legitimate right to the peaceful use of nuclear energy under the Non-Proliferation Treaty," the statement concluded.