US imposes sanctions on 12 Iranian steel producers as Trump departure nears

Among others hit with sanctions are a Chinese company and an Iranian subsidiary in Germany

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The US government imposed new sanctions on Iran on Tuesday, against 17 companies and one person linked to the country’s steel industry.

The sanctions, which come two weeks before US President Donald Trump leaves office, were announced by the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control.

They concern 12 Iranian producers of steel and other metal products, a China-based supplier of graphite electrodes and three sales agents of a major metals and mining holding company based abroad.

US Secretary of Treasury Steve Mnuchin said the sanctions aimed to cut revenue to the Iranian regime.

“The Trump administration remains committed to denying revenue flowing to the Iranian regime as it continues to sponsor terrorist groups, support oppressive regimes and seek weapons of mass destruction,” Mr Mnuchin said.

The Iranian steel industry accounts for 10 per cent of its export economy.

Those named in the order included the Chinese company Kaifeng Pingmei New Carbon Materials Technology, which the US accused of doing business with Iran in 2019 and 2020 in breach of sanctions.

The order said Kaifeng was designated "for having materially assisted, sponsored or provided financial, material or technological support for, or goods or services in support of, Iranian steel maker Pasargad Steel Complex".

The Treasury also designated 12 Iranian steel makers including Pasargad Steel Complex, Gilan Steel Complex, Middle East Mines and Mineral Industries Development Holding Company, Sirjan Iranian Steel and Zarand Iranian Steel.

The holding company encompasses 17 subsidiaries, including fully owned companies in Germany, China and the UK, it said.

Also designated are Iranian steel makers Khazar Steel, Vian Steel Complex, South Rouhina Steel Complex, Yazd Industrial Constructional Steel Rolling Mill, West Alborz Steel Complex, Esfarayen Industrial Complex and Bonab Steel Industry Complex.

The State Department imposed sanctions on Majid Sajdeh, a senior executive of Iran’s Hafez Darya Arya Shipping.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the regime in Iran uses revenue from its metals sector to fund destabilising activity around the world.

“The United States will continue to aggressively implement sanctions with respect to the Iranian regime, those who evade sanctions and others who enable the regime to fund and carry out its malign agenda of repression and terror,” Mr Pompeo said.

The incoming Biden administration has shown openness to returning to the nuclear deal signed between Tehran and world powers, from which Mr Trump withdrew in 2018.

That could bring sanctions relief to Iran in relation to its nuclear programme.

But Office of Foreign Assets Control measures against terrorism or human rights breaches will be harder to remove by the next administration.