The Treasury Department announced sanctions against Iranian petrochemical producers, as well as companies in China and the United Arab Emirates that help export Iran’s petrochemicals. The sanctions specifically target two companies based in Hong Kong, three in Iran, and four in the UAE, as well as on Chinese citizen Jinfeng Gao and Indian national Mohammed Shaheed Ruknooddin Bhore.
According to Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian Nelson, Thursday’s sanctions are a way “to expose the networks Iran uses to conceal sanctions evasion activities.” The sanctions have also been seen as a way to ramp up pressure on Iran to revive its 2015 nuclear deal.
“The United States is pursuing the path of meaningful diplomacy to achieve a mutual return to compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action,” Nelson said in a statement Thursday. “Absent a deal, we will continue to use our sanctions authorities to limit exports of petroleum, petroleum products, and petrochemical products from Iran.”
Thursday’s Treasury sanctions on petrochemicals came a day after Iran acknowledged it plans two tests for its new solid-fueled rocket. The state-run IRNA news agency quoted Defense Ministry spokesman Ahmad Hosseini as saying the rocket has already been launched once. Satellite images taken Tuesday by Maxar Technologies showed preparations at a launch pad at Imam Khomeini Spaceport.
“Iran has consistently chosen to escalate tensions. It is Iran that has consistently chosen to take provocative actions,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said in response to a reporter’s question on the images. Pentagon spokesman Maj. Rob Lodewick added that the Pentagon “will continue to closely monitor Iran’s pursuit of viable space launch technology and how it may relate to advancements in its overall ballistic missile program.”
Tuesday’s developments came after Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with South Korean Foreign Minister Park Jin. Both of them urged Iran to return to the nuclear deal negotiation table.
“It is fundamentally up to Iran to decide whether or not it wishes to reengage in that agreement, because the work in terms of reengaging that agreement has for the most part been been completed,” Blinken said Monday. “What we’ve seen is Iran continuing to try to inject extraneous issues into the into the conversation, into the negotiation that simply have no no place there.”