Treasury sanctions Iranian petrochemical firms tied to Asia

FILE - Iran's top nuclear negotiator Ali Bagheri Kani listens to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov during a meeting in Tehran, Iran, June 23, 2022. Iran and the United States appear poised to start indirect talks in Qatar aimed at finding a way to save Tehrans tattered nuclear deal with world powers. The state-owned Tehran Times posted a photograph on Tuesday, June 28, 2022, of Kani, in a hotel lobby with Iranian Ambassador to Qatar Hamidreza Dehghani. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi, File) (Vahid Salemi, Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistribu)

WASHINGTON – The Treasury Department said Wednesday that it has sanctioned a group of front companies and individuals tied to the sale and shipment of Iranian petroleum and petrochemical products to East Asia.

Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control imposed the sanctions on several companies, including Iran-based Jam Petrochemical Co., which has exported hundreds of millions of dollars worth of products to countries throughout Asia, including China.

The administration uses an August 2018 executive order signed by then-President Donald Trump as its authority to impose the sanctions.

The order addresses “threats posed by Iran, including Iran’s proliferation and development of missiles and other asymmetric and conventional weapons capabilities, its network and campaign of regional aggression,” and other issues.

Brian E. Nelson, Treasury's undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said in a statement that while the U.S. “is committed to achieving an agreement with Iran that seeks a mutual return” to the Iran nuclear deal, "we will continue to use all our authorities to enforce sanctions on the sale of Iranian petroleum and petrochemicals.”

Iran is nursing a battered economy, with its currency hitting its lowest value ever, after the U.S. withdrew from the nuclear deal in May 2018.

President Joe Biden’s administration has been working to renew the agreement, which placed curbs on Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for billions of dollars in sanctions relief, which Iran insists it has never received.

In June, Iran said it is ready for new indirect talks to overcome the last hurdles to revive its tattered 2015 nuclear deal amid a growing crisis over the country’s atomic program.

Treasury also designated United Arab Emirates-based Iranian nationals Morteza Rajabieslami and Mahdieh Sanchuli for sanctions.

Also on Wednesday, the State Department imposed penalties on five entities and 15 people located in Iran, Vietnam, Singapore, Hong Kong and the United Arab Emirates.

“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,” a State Department statement reads.