The US Commerce Department on Thursday blacklisted three companies for attempting to provide support to Iran’s advanced conventional weapons and missile programmes via exports through China.
The department’s Bureau of Industry and Security added the three companies to its entity list for China ties and "actions contrary to the national security or foreign policy interests of the United States".
The updated list, published in the Federal Register, noted that “these companies have supplied or attempted to supply US-origin items that could provide material support to Iran’s advanced conventional weapons and missile programmes to entities” sanctioned by the US.
The three blacklisted companies are Wavelet Electronics, Comtel Technology Limited and HSJ Electronics.
Their inclusion on the list prevents them from exporting, re-exporting or conducting in-country equipment transfers.
In addition, the Commerce Department blacklisted a network of eight other companies providing material support to Iran’s defence industry with exports through China, Malaysia, Turkey and Georgia.
The companies in that network include Hong Kong Cheung Wah Electronics Technology Company Limited, Hyper Systems Union Limited, Shenzhen Rion Technology, Thundsea Electric Limited, Genesis Engineering, Integrated Scientific Microwave Technology and SAEROS Safety ERO Company.
The blacklisting comes amid a broader tranche of Commerce Department sanctions over the export of biotechnology to China reportedly “for military applications and human rights abuses".
“We cannot allow US commodities, technologies and software that support medical science and biotechnical innovation be diverted towards uses contrary to US national security,” Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said in a statement.
“The US will continue to stand strong against efforts by [China] and Iran to turn tools that can help humanity prosper into implements that threaten global security and stability.”
China, a signatory to the Iran nuclear deal, called on the United States to lift sanctions on Tehran that violate the agreement last month when indirect talks resumed in Vienna to revive the accord, which remains on life support.
Since the seventh round of indirect talks began in Vienna in November, the United States and Iran have remained at an impasse over disagreements regarding what sanctions Washington must lift and what nuclear activities Tehran must scale back in order to come back into compliance with the agreement.
Iran began steadily ratcheting up its violations of the 2015 accord following former president Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the agreement in 2018, which came with the reinstatement of crippling US sectoral sanctions on the Iranian economy.
Since then, Iran's breakout time needed to produce a nuclear weapon has decreased from a year to a few months, a senior US official has said.
The sanctions target Iranian officials, organisations and prisons that have cracked down on protesters and activists.
A teachers’ protest in Iran turned violent earlier this week when authorities arrested demonstrators while arresting Rasoul Badaghi, a teachers’ union activist.