The United States on Wednesday sanctioned an international network of companies for having allegedly violated oil sanctions on Iran by selling Iranian oil to China and other countries in east Asia.
The Treasury Department said in a release it imposed sanctions on the companies that are accused of having facilitated the sale of hundreds of millions of dollars of Iranian petroleum and petrochemical products.
The department said that the sanctioned individuals and entities “used a web of Gulf-based front companies” to hide the Iranian origin of the petroleum.
On the same day, the State Department announced that it imposed parallel sanctions on 15 individuals and entities that “engaged in the illicit sales and shipment” of Iranian petroleum and petrochemical products.
The entities are located in Iran, Vietnam, Singapore, the United Arab Emirates, and Hong Kong. Among them are Iran-based Jam Petrochemical Company, UAE-based Edgar Commercial Solutions FZE and Ali Almutawa Petroleum and Petrochemical Trading L.L.C., and Hong Kong-based front company Lustro Industry Limited.
Over the past two years, Chinese refineries have been buying large amounts of Iranian oil despite U.S. sanctions on Iranian oil exports. Oil is the lifeblood of Iran’s economy and Chinese imports have helped keep it afloat.
The United States had also imposed an earlier round of sanctions in mid-June, targeting Iranian petrochemical producers, as well as front companies in China and the United Arab Emirates that support Hong Kong-based Triliance Petrochemical Co. Ltd. and Iran’s Petrochemical Commercial Company.
The two are “entities instrumental in brokering the sale of Iranian petrochemicals abroad,” the Treasury Department stated at the time.
Iran Nuclear Talks Showing No Progress
The United States has increasingly targeted Chinese companies over the export of Iran’s petrochemicals, amid failed attempts at reviving the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Indirect U.S.–Iran nuclear talks in Doha, Qatar last week wrapped up with no progress.
“While the United States is committed to achieving an agreement with Iran that seeks a mutual return to compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, we will continue to use all our authorities to enforce sanctions on the sale of Iranian petroleum and petrochemicals,” Brian Nelson, the Treasury’s under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said in a statement on July 6.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on July 6 that Iran has “failed” to show a commitment to diplomacy to review the 2015 nuclear deal.
“Absent a change in course from Iran, we will continue to use our sanctions authorities to target exports of petroleum, petroleum products, and petrochemical products from Iran,” he said in a statement.
The JCPOA had required Iran to restrict its nuclear program in return for the lifting of economic sanctions from the United States, the EU, and the United Nations. The deal was promoted by President Barack Obama in 2015 as the “best option” to keep Iran from wielding nuclear arms, even temporarily.
President Donald Trump in May 2018 withdrew the United States from the nuclear pact and reimposed sanctions on Iran in an effort to force Iran’s ruling Islamic regime to reform a series of activities the Trump administration deemed unacceptable.
In 2019, the Iranian regime said publicly that it was in breach of the uranium enrichment limits set out in the deal.
The United States recognizes Iran as a state sponsor of terrorism and has long criticized it for funding Islamist terror groups like Hamas, Hezbollah, and the Houthis. The Iranian regime has insisted that the United States remove the “terror” designation on the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in exchange for a revived nuclear deal, The Epoch Times reported in April.
Reuters contributed to this report.