Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (R) and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo sanctioned several companies on Wednesday over their connections to selling and shipping petrochemicals for Iran. Photo by Mike Theiler/UPI | License Photo
Dec. 17 (UPI) -- The United States has blacklisted several companies in China, Vietnam and the United Arab Emirates, accusing them of dealing in Iranian petrochemicals as the Trump administration continues with its "maximum pressure" campaign in its final weeks in office.
The Treasury announced sanctions against four entities -- two in China and two in the UAE -- for facilitating the export of petrochemical products by Triliance Petrochemical Co., which was designated by the Trump administration in January.
The Chinese firms designated are Donghai International Ship Management Limited and Petrochem South East Limited. Alpha Tech Trading FZE and Petroliance Trading FZE are the UAE-based companies that were named.
The State Department on Wednesday concurrently announced sanctions against Vietnam Gas and Chemicals Transportation Corporation and its managing director, Vo Ngoc Phung, for "knowingly engaging, on or after Nov. 5, 2018, in a significant transaction for the transport of petroleum products from Iran."
"Iran's petrochemical and petroleum sectors are primary sources of funding for the Iranian regime, which it uses to support its malign domestic and foreign agenda," Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement. "The United States will act against persons who support illicit actors engaged in the movement of Iranian petroleum and petrochemical sales."
The Treasury said the four companies have provided Triliance with "critical shipping services" as well as conducting financial transactions on its behalf, measures that enable it to continue to move Iranian petrochemical products.
Profits from petrochemical products are an important revue source for Tehran, and the United States accuses the Middle Eastern country of using those proceeds to enrich its leaders and finance destabilizing activities, including the production of weapons of mass destruction.
Donghai has been accused by the Treasury of operating a shipping vessel that transported tens of thousands of metric tons of petrochemicals worth millions of dollars early this year from Iran to China in a deal brokered by Triliance.
Petrochem has been accused of channeling payments to Donghai for it to transport the petroleum for Triliance, the Treasury said, adding that the two UAE-based companies have been used as fronts for Triliance to broker the sales of thousands of tons of petrochemicals.
"Triliance has used, and continues to use, various front companies in connection with the purchase of petrochemical products by foreign buyers and the transportation of those petrochemical products from Iran," Mnuchin said.
The sanctions were imposed following several others leveled this week against entities and individuals connected to the Iranian regime as the Trump administration further tightens its financial vises on Tehran in its final weeks at helm of the United States.
The Trump administration has been applying a "maximum pressure" campaign against Tehran since President Donald Trump in 2018 withdrew the United States from an Obama-era multination nuclear accord aimed at preventing it from obtaining a nuclear weapon, calling it "defective at its core."
Sanctions have been at the heart of the campaign with the goal of forcing Iran back to the negotiating table on a new deal.
Despite the lack of a new deal, the Trump administration has claimed the sanction campaign is working.
"As a direct result of the U.S. maximum pressure campaign, Iran's military and 'security' budget proposal for next year has decreased by a massive 24%," U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement on Wednesday. "These latest sanctions degrade the regime's ability to inflict human rights abuses on the Iranian people. We reiterate that only a fundamental change in the Iranian regime's behavior can provide a path toward sanctions relief."
President-elect Joe Biden has said he intends to rejoin the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which would require sanctions imposed since 2018 to be removed.