US is tightening sanctions on Iran, targeting Chinese and Emirati firms over oil

WASHINGTON, July 6 (Reuters) – The United States on Wednesday imposed sanctions on a network of Chinese, Emirati and other companies it has accused of helping to ship and sell Iranian petroleum and petrochemical products to East Asia, and put pressure on Tehran as it attempts to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

The US Treasury Department said in a statement that the network of people and entities used a network of Gulf-based front companies to facilitate the shipment and sale of hundreds of millions of dollars worth of products from Iranian firms to China and elsewhere in East Asia .

Washington has increasingly targeted Chinese companies for exporting Iranian petrochemicals as prospects for a revival of the nuclear pact have dimmed.

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In Doha last week, indirect talks between Tehran and Washington ended without a breakthrough on how to salvage the deal under which Iran had reined in its nuclear program. Continue reading

Then-US President Donald Trump abandoned the pact in 2018 and re-imposed sanctions, spurring Iran – which claims its program is designed to serve peaceful purposes – to begin violating the deal’s nuclear limits.

“While the United States works to reach an agreement with Iran seeking a mutual return to compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal, we will continue to use all of our agencies to enforce sanctions on the sale of Iranian petroleum and petrochemicals,” said Brian Nelson, the Treasury Department’s undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence.

Among those named by the Treasury Department was Iran-based Jam Petrochemical Company over allegations that it exported petrochemical products to companies across East Asia, many of which were sold to a US-sanctioned company for shipment to China.

Jam did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Also targeted was UAE-based Edgar Commercial Solutions FZE, which the Treasury Department said has bought and exported petrochemical products from sanctioned Iranian companies for shipment to China.

Washington said the firm used Hong Kong-based front company Lustro Industry Limited, also named on Wednesday, to hide its role in bulk purchases of petrochemical products.

Ali Almutawa Petroleum and Petrochemical Trading LLC, accused of being a front company of Hong Kong-based Triliance Petrochemical Co. Ltd, was also targeted.

Reuters could not immediately reach Edgar Commercial Solutions FZE, Lustro Industry Limited and Ali Almutawa Petroleum and Petrochemical Trading LLC for comment.

Chinese refiners have been buying large quantities of Iranian oil over the past two years despite US sanctions on the country’s oil exports. Oil is the lifeblood of Iran’s economy, and Chinese imports have helped keep Tehran afloat.

Brian O’Toole, a former Treasury Department official, said given Iran’s apparent reluctance to return to the nuclear deal, he expected Washington to lean more heavily on China “because that was the clear point where the sanctions regime leaked out.” .

“I think the message to Beijing is that as long as Iran doesn’t take seriously a return to the JCPOA terms, you have to stop importing Iranian oil,” he said, referring to the deal with Iran.

Wednesday’s move freezes US assets of the designees and generally bans Americans from trading with them. Sanctions may also be imposed on those involved with the individuals and entities concerned.

The U.S. State Department on Wednesday also named a Vietnamese company, Truong Phat Loc Shipping Trading JSC, and Singapore-based Everwin Ship Management Pte. Ltd., for involvement in the transportation of Iranian petroleum products. Three facilities based in Iran were also attacked by the operation.

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Reporting by Daphne Psaledakis and Arshad Mohammed; Edited by Howard Goller and Alistair Bell

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