U.S. imposes fresh sanctions targeting Iran's petroleum, petrochemical trade

The State Department under Secretary Antony Blinken on Thursday unleashed a new round of sanctions targeting Iran. File Photo by Sarah Silbiger/UPI
The State Department under Secretary Antony Blinken on Thursday unleashed a new round of sanctions targeting Iran. File Photo by Sarah Silbiger/UPI | License Photo

March 2 (UPI) -- The administration of President Joe Biden unleashed a new round of sanctions Thursday targeting Iran's petroleum and petrochemical trade.

The news comes as the United States seeks to clamp down on Tehran's energy industry amid growing concerns over its progressing nuclear program.


Six companies, including two based in China and one in Vietnam, were named for blacklisting Thursday along with 20 shipping vessel on accusations that they engaged in the transport or sale of Iranian oil products.

"The United States is committed to significantly reducing Iranian energy exports and will sanction those facilitating Iran's petroleum and petrochemical trade," the U.S. State Department said in a statement.

"These designations underscore our continued efforts to enforce our sanctions against Iran. We will not hesitate to take action against those who try to circumvent our sanctions."


Washington has repeatedly targeted Iran with sanctions, particularly aimed at hobbling its oil industry, since former President Donald Trump in 2018 unilaterally pulled the United States from an Obama-era multination pact aimed at preventing Tehran from gaining a nuclear weapon.

Since that move, the Iranian regime of Ali Khamenei, the spiritual leader of the Middle Eastern country, has repeatedly reneged on its responsibilities under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

Amid his administration, President Joe Biden has attempted to make a new deal with Iran through several rounds of negotiations that have since stalled.

Worries over Iran's nuclear program increased this month when the International Atomic Energy Agency said it was in discussion with Tehran over "recent agency verification activities," after Bloomberg reported that the U.N. nuclear watchdog had detected Iran had uranium enriched to 84% purity.

Weapons-grade uranium is commonly considered to be enriched to 90%.

On Tuesday, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Colin Khal told lawmakers during a hearing on Ukraine that the progress of Iran's nuclear program since Trump pulled the United States from the JCPOA was "remarkable" and that its ability to produce enough fissile material for a nuclear bomb grew from a year to about 12 days.


A deal to put restraints back on Iran's program had been tabled in the summer but was rejected Tehran, and its current behavior, including supplying weapons to Russian in Moscow's war in Ukraine, means the possibly of inking a new nuclear pact doesn't seem likely, Khal said.

On Wednesday, State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters during a press conference that Biden's stance on Iran has not changed: "Iran will never acquire a nuclear weapon."

"We will never allow that to happen," he said. "We continue to believe that the way to address this challenge in a way that is durable, in a way that is permanent, is through diplomacy.

"We want to see a durable, lasting resolution to the challenge posed by Iran's nuclear program. We continue to believe that diplomacy is the most effective way to achieve that, but every time we've been asked, we have been very clear that we will, through all means necessary, ensure that Iran never acquires a nuclear weapon."

Meanwhile, the IAEA announced Thursday that its director general, Rafael Mariano Grossi, will travel to Iran this week for "high-level meetings at the invitation of Iran's government."


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