New US sanctions on Iran target petrochemical industry

Treasury Department adds punitive financial measures against Tehran over support for Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

Iran gas installation
Tension between the US and Iran has increased, with Washington imposing yet more sanctions on Tehran [Raheb Homavandi/Reuters]

The United States has imposed new sanctions on Iran that target the country’s petrochemical industry, including its largest petrochemical holding group, over Iran’s financial support for the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), the Treasury Department said on Friday.

Meanwhile, Iran also rejected the idea of having wider international talks about its nuclear and military ambitions.

Washington is pressuring Iran over its nuclear and ballistic missile programme, and for waging proxy wars in other Middle Eastern countries. The new measures follow a round of sanctions imposed last month that targeted Iran’s export revenues from industrial metals.

Tensions between the two countries worsened last month when the administration of US President Donald Trump ordered the deployment of an aircraft carrier strike group, bombers and Patriot missiles to the Middle East, citing intelligence about possible Iranian preparations to attack US forces or interests.

The Pentagon has also accused the IRGC of being directly responsible for May 12 attacks off the coast of the United Arab Emirates that damaged two Saudi tankers, an Emirati vessel and a Norwegian tanker.

Iran: We will only talk about the nuclear deal 

Iran rejected French calls for wider international talks over its nuclear and military ambitions, saying on Friday it would only discuss its existing 2015 atomic pact with world powers, Iranian state television reported.

French President Emmanuel Macron had said a day earlier that Paris and Washington both wanted to stop Iran from getting nuclear arms – and that new talks should focus on curbing Iran’s ballistic missiles programme as well as other issues.

But Iran‘s foreign ministry said it would not hold any discussions beyond the 2015 pact that Trump abandoned last year as he pressed for tougher restrictions.

“Under this circumstances, talking about issues beyond the deal … will lead to further mistrust among the remaining signatories of the deal,” Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said in a statement.

‘To deny funding’

Friday’s sanctions from the US target Persian Gulf Petrochemical Industries Company (PGPIC) for providing financial support for the economic arm of the IRGC, Iran’s elite military unit in charge of its ballistic missile and nuclear efforts.

The US Treasury also designated the holding group’s network of 39 subsidiary petrochemical companies and foreign-based sales agents. PGPIC and its subsidiaries hold 40 percent of Iran’s petrochemical production capacity and are responsible for 50 percent of Iran’s petrochemical exports, it said.

“By targeting this network we intend to deny funding to key elements of Iran’s petrochemical sector that provide support to the IRGC,” US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.

The US Treasury statement said Iran’s oil ministry last year awarded the IRGC’s Khatam al-Anbiya – its economic development and engineering arm – 10 projects in oil and petrochemical industries worth $22bn, four times the official budget of the IRGC.

Trump last year pulled out of a 2015 agreement between Iran and world powers to curb Iran’s nuclear programme in exchange for easing some sanctions, saying it did not go far enough.

The Trump administration has since taken several unprecedented steps to squeeze Iran, such as demanding the world halt all imports of Iranian oil and designating the IRGC as a “foreign terrorist organization”, which Iran has cast as an American provocation.

US law already punished US persons who deal with the IRGC with up to 20 years in prison because of the group’s designation under the Specially Designated Global Terrorist list, a different sanctions programme.

Source: Reuters