US targets companies selling Iranian petrochemicals in new sanctions

Iran's petroleum industry (Majmood Hosseini/WikiCommons)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

The United States has imposed sanctions on Chinese and Emirati companies and a network of Iranian firms that it says have helped export Iran’s petrochemicals.

The U.S. Treasury Department on June 16 imposed penalties on two companies based in Hong Kong, three in Iran, and four in the United Arab Emirates, as well as on a Chinese and an Indian national.

The Treasury Department linked the moves to the negotiations to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

“The United States is pursuing the path of meaningful diplomacy to achieve a mutual return to compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action,” Brian Nelson, the undersecretary of the Treasury for terrorism and financial intelligence, said in a statement announcing the sanctions.

“Absent a deal, we will continue to use our sanctions authorities to limit exports of petroleum, petroleum products, and petrochemical products from Iran,” Nelson said.

Iran agreed under the pact to limit its nuclear program in exchange for relief from U.S., European Union, and United Nations sanctions.

Then-U.S. President Donald Trump pulled out of the deal in 2018 and restored U.S. sanctions, prompting Iran to start violating the restrictions. Talks to revive the agreement have so far failed.

A revamped deal was reportedly close in March, but the talks in Vienna abruptly stalled in April as Tehran and Washington blamed each other for failing to take the necessary political decisions to settle remaining issues.

The talks unraveled partly over whether Washington might drop the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps from a U.S. list of designated foreign terrorist organizations.

Iran has long denied it has tried to secretly develop nuclear weapons, saying its nuclear program is solely for peaceful purposes. Since the deal collapsed, however, Tehran has vastly expanded its nuclear work.