US puts more oil sanctions on Iran as nuclear talks stall

Washington remains sincere about returning to nuclear deal with Tehran, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken says

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken says Tehran must commit to full compliance with the nuclear deal. Reuters
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The US government imposed new sanctions on Iran on Monday against six entities involved in the country's oil and petrochemical trade.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken made the announcement, stressing that Washington remains sincere about returning to the nuclear deal, but not until Tehran commits to full compliance.

“Until Iran is ready to return to full implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action [JCPOA], we will continue to use our sanctions authorities to target exports of petroleum, petroleum products and petrochemical products from Iran,” Mr Blinken said.

The entities sanctioned include Pioneer Ship management PTE LTD, a company that manages a liquefied petroleum gas tanker; Golden Warrior Shipping Co Ltd; and four other entities that support Iran’s Persian Gulf Petrochemical Industry Commercial Company.

The US has further identified the vessel Glory Harvest, which belongs to Golden Warrior Shipping, as blocked property.

The Treasury Department said the entities have enabled “the sale of tens of millions of dollars’ worth of Iranian petroleum and petrochemical products from Iran to East Asia”.

The Persian Gulf Petrochemical Industry Commercial Company, the agency said, is a subsidiary of the conglomerate Persian Gulf Petrochemical Industry Company, which accounts for half of all of Iran's total petrochemical exports.

Undersecretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian Nelson said the sanctions will continue until Iran returns to the nuclear deal.

“Until such time as Iran is ready to return to full implementation of its commitments, we will continue to enforce sanctions on the illicit sale of Iranian petroleum and petrochemicals,” he said.

Nuclear deal talks have stalled over Iran's insistence on the removal of sanctions — some of which have been imposed against its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps — as a precondition to returning to negotiations.

Henry Rome, senior analyst and deputy head of research at the Eurasia group, said the new penalties signal a continuation of US strategy — but they may not be as effective as Washington hopes.

“Enforcement measures such as these sanctions are a continuation of the US's whack-a-mole approach towards alleged Iran sanctions violators, but it would be a mistake to view them as having a systemic effect on Iran's ability to export oil,” Mr Rome told The National.

“The genie is likely out of the bottle for now, given the US's decision not to enforce oil sanctions going back to 2021,” he said.

US President Joe Biden's administration has shied away from sanctioning China’s oil trade with Iran.

Last month, the Central Bank of Iran reported a significant increase in revenue for the financial year ending in March, with total oil and gas export revenue increasing 77.27 per cent, from $22 billion to $39bn, in 2022.

Mr Rome said Tehran appears “even more confident in market conditions that a concerted campaign to bring down its exports to Trump-era levels [2018-2020] is not imminent”.

At the same time, Mr Rome did not expect that the new measures would “poison the well” and block the revival of the nuclear deal.

“There's a deal on the table that would deliver major benefits to Tehran that it's refusing to take,” he said.

Updated: August 02, 2022, 9:57 AM