The United States is tightening sanctions on Iran, targeting Chinese, Emirati companies over oil

WASHINGTON, July 6 (Reuters) – The United States on Wednesday imposed sanctions on a network of Chinese, Emirati and other companies they accused of helping to supply and sell Iranian petroleum and petrochemical products to East Asia, and pushed Tehran while they are trying to revive the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran.

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 delivery and sale of hundreds of millions of dollars in products from Iranian companies to China and elsewhere in East Asia.

Washington has increasingly targeted Chinese companies over exports of Iran’s petrochemicals as the prospects for reviving the nuclear pact have weakened.

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In Doha last week, indirect talks between Tehran and Washington ended without a breakthrough on how to save the agreement, which Iran had rein in its nuclear program. read more

The then US President Donald Trump left the pact in 2018 and reintroduced sanctions, which encouraged Iran – which says the program is for peaceful purposes – to start breaking the agreement’s nuclear boundaries.

“While the United States is committed to reaching an agreement with Iran seeking reciprocal compliance (the 2015 nuclear deal), we will continue to use all our powers to enforce sanctions against the sale of Iranian petroleum and petrochemicals,” Brian Brian said. Nelson, the finance minister’s deputy secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said.

Among those appointed by the Treasury Department were the 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.

The target was also the United Arab Emirates-based Edgar Commercial Solutions FZE, which the Ministry of Finance said bought and exported petrochemical products from sanctioned Iranian companies for shipment to China.

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

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 refineries over the past two years have bought large quantities of Iranian oil despite US sanctions against 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 finance official, said given Iran’s apparent reluctance to return to the nuclear deal, he expects Washington to lean more heavily on China, “because it was the clear point of leakage in the sanctions regime.”

“I think the message to Beijing is that as long as Iran does not take a return to JCPOA terms seriously, it must stop importing Iranian oil,” he said, referring to the Iran deal.

Wednesday’s move freezes U.S. assets of the designated and generally prevents Americans from handling them. Those dealing with the targeted individuals and entities may also be subject to sanctions.

The US State Department on Wednesday also targeted a Vietnamese company, Truong Phat Loc Shipping Trading JSC, and Singapore-based Everwin Ship Management Pte. Ltd., to transport Iranian petroleum products. Three Iran-based units were also targeted in the operation.

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

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