US imposes new sanctions on Iran after failed JCPOA talks

A gas station is seen in March 2022 in China, which has remained the key buyer of Iranian oil despite US sanctions (Photo: Noel Celis AFP/File)
A gas station is seen in March 2022 in China, which has remained the key buyer of Iranian oil despite US sanctions (Photo: Noel Celis AFP/File)

WASHINGTON DC (Kurdistan 24) – The US announced on Wednesday that it was imposing new sanctions on Iran, targeting its oil exports.

The announcement came a day after senior US officials offered their most negative assessment to date of prospects for a renewal of the 2015 Iranian nuclear accord, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which former US president Donald Trump left in 2018.

Read More: US: Iran blocking renewal of JCPOA by introducing new demands

“The United States is designating 15 individuals and entities that engaged in the illicit sales and shipment of Iranian petroleum, petroleum products, and petrochemical products,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced in a written statement.

Of the 15 new sanctions, most are against companies, while only two apply to individuals, both Iranian citizens, residing in Dubai. 

“Since 2019, UAE-based Iranian nationals Morteza Rajabieslami and Mahdieh Sanchuli have partnered to export Iranian crude oil and petrochemical products on behalf of Switzerland-based Naftiran Intertrade Company (NICO), the marketing arm of NIOC [National Iranian Oil Company], through companies and vessels under their control,” the Treasury Department said in a statement, detailing the new sanctions.

“Rajabieslami owns an extensive network of companies engaged in refining, energy trading, shipping, and bunkering, which have facilitated the shipment of thousands of metric tons of fuel oil worth millions of dollars from Iran,” it continued, while Sanchuli is “an experienced petroleum sales facilitator.”

Sanchuli, who is female, “has served as a representative of UAE-based companies Petrogat FZE and Emerald Global FZE,” The Treasury Department said. Both companies were included in Wednesday’s sanctions, which targeted five UAE-based firms. 

“Sanchuli has paid NICO tens of millions of dollars on behalf” of one of those companies—Petrogat FZE—“to facilitate multiple shipments of oil from Iran to East Asia for the benefit of NICO,” Treasury explained.

As illicit Iranian oil supplies to East Asia are the focus of Wednesday’s measures, the new sanctions apply to four companies in that area, including Hong Kong, Singapore, and Vietnam, along with two shipping companies. 

The new sanctions also apply to four Iranian companies involved in the oil trade with East Asia.

“The United States has been sincere and steadfast in pursuing a path of meaningful diplomacy to achieve a mutual return to full implementation of the [JCPOA],” Blinken concluded in his statement.

“It is Iran, that has, to-date, failed to demonstrate a similar commitment,” he continued. “Absent a change of course from Iran, we will continue to use our sanctions authorities to target exports of petroleum, petroleum products, and petrochemical products from Iran.”

Thus, Blinken has made the position of the Biden administration very clear. What remains unclear is whether this will cause Iran to return to the JCPOA or whether Tehran prefers to continue the current protracted stalemate because it is really bent on acquiring nuclear weapons.