US action targeting Iran’s sale of petroleum and petrochemicals precedes Joe Biden’s visit to the region next week.
The Biden administration has announced a new round of Iran-related sanctions amid ongoing diplomatic efforts to revive the 2015 Tehran nuclear deal.
The new measures, unveiled on Wednesday, target “an international network of individuals and organizations” that the Treasury Department said is facilitating the sale of US-sanctioned Iranian petroleum and petrochemical products to East Asia.
The sanctions come days after U.S. and Iranian diplomats held a round of indirect talks in Qatar to try to restore the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the multilateral agreement that Iran agreed to extend its nuclear program in exchange for lifting the Sanctions have scaled back its economy.
“Although the United States has committed to reaching an agreement with Iran seeking a mutual return to compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, we will continue to use all of our agencies to enforce sanctions on the sale of Iranian petroleum and petrochemicals,” Treasury Department Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian Nelson said in a statement.
Wednesday’s measures were imposed on several individuals and companies based in Iran, the United Arab Emirates and Hong Kong whom the US accused of “supplying and selling hundreds of millions of dollars worth of Iranian petroleum and petrochemical products from Iranian companies to… “Having helped East Asia”.
The sanctions will freeze the assets of companies in the United States, cutting them off from the US financial system and preventing Americans from doing business with them.
The US State Department also issued its own Iran-related sanctions on Wednesday against organizations based in Iran, Vietnam and Singapore.
“The United States has sincerely and steadfastly embarked on a path of meaningful diplomacy to achieve a collective return to full implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA),” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.
“It is Iran that has so far failed to demonstrate a similar commitment to this path. As long as Iran does not change course, we will continue to use our sanctions agencies to target Iran’s exports of petroleum, petroleum products and petrochemical products.”
Former US President Donald Trump withdrew from the deal in 2018 and launched a “maximum pressure” sanctions campaign against Iran. In response, the Iranian government began to escalate its nuclear program well beyond the limits set by the JCPOA.
President Joe Biden and his top aides say they are determined to revitalize the deal through mutual compliance, but they have continued to enforce Trump’s sanctions and added dozens of their own.
As Biden prepares to visit Israel and Saudi Arabia next week, prospects of a revival of the Iran deal have dimmed, and US officials warn the window to salvaging a deal is closing as Tehran’s irreversible nuclear expertise acquires.
Several rounds of talks in Vienna that started in April 2021 failed to achieve a return to the JCPOA. Negotiations stalled for months before resuming in Qatar last week.
Tehran has blamed Washington’s refusal to lift sanctions for the failure to reach an agreement so far.
“Agreement is only possible on the basis of mutual understanding and interests,” Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian wrote on Twitter on Tuesday after a phone call with EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell.
“We remain ready to negotiate a strong and lasting agreement. The US must decide whether it wants a deal or insists on sticking to its unilateral demands.”