Washington, DC – The United States has imposed a new round of Iran sanctions, targeting the country’s oil and petrochemical sales, as diplomacy between Washington and Tehran continues to stall.
The measures announced on Thursday come weeks after US media reports said Washington and Tehran were working on a prisoner exchange deal.
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“The United States is committed to significantly reducing Iranian energy exports and will sanction those facilitating Iran’s petroleum and petrochemical trade,” the State Department said.
The sanctions hit a Vietnam-based company, two firms based in China, two others in Iran and one in the United Arab Emirates, accusing them of involvement “in the transport or sale” of Iranian oil and petrochemicals.
The measures block the entities’ assets in the US and restrict other companies from doing business with them.
“These designations underscore our continued efforts to enforce our sanctions against Iran,” the State Department said. “We will not hesitate to take action against those who try to circumvent our sanctions.”
Iran has faced an enormous amount of US sanctions since 2018, when then-President Donald Trump nixed a multilateral nuclear deal that saw Iran scale back its nuclear programme in exchange for lifting international sanctions against its economy.
US President Joe Biden, who was vice president when the 2015 agreement was originally signed, has promised to revive the pact. But numerous rounds of indirect talks over the past two years have failed to restore the nuclear deal.
While Washington often reiterates it will never allow Iran to build a nuclear weapon, US officials have recently said they are no longer focused on the nuclear talks, as they address other issues related to Tehran, which denies seeking nuclear arms.
US-Iranian relations have been further complicated by a crackdown on anti-government protests in Iran and Washington’s allegations that Tehran supplied Russia with drones that Moscow used against Ukraine.
“We want to see a durable, lasting resolution to the challenge posed by Iran’s nuclear programme,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said on Wednesday.
“We continue to believe that diplomacy is the most effective way to achieve that but every time we’ve been asked, we have been very clear that we will, through all means necessary, ensure that Iran never acquires a nuclear weapon.”
Meanwhile, Iran has accused the US of showing “bad faith” in the talks to negotiate a prisoner swap.
But Washington says it will do everything possible to secure the release of three of its citizens imprisoned in Iran.
“Iran unjustly detains citizens of the US and other countries around the world as an inexcusable tactic to gain political leverage, so for them to claim that the United States has somehow shown ‘bad faith’ in pursuing the release of our citizens is beyond the pale,” a State Department spokesperson told Al Jazeera last month.