U.S. Sanctions Iran's Petroleum Ministry, National Iranian Oil Company, Tanker Subsidiary -- 2nd Update
By Ian Talley in Washington and Benoit Faucon in London
The Trump administration on Monday imposed counterterrorism
sanctions on Iran's Ministry of Petroleum, the National Iranian Oil
Company and its tanker subsidiary in a pre-election move that
analysts say will make it more difficult for the pressure campaign
to be reversed in the future.
The Treasury Department also blacklisted more than a dozen other
Iranian state energy firms and their subsidiaries, and top
officials at the ministry and the firms, which include the National
Petrochemical Company and the National Iranian Oil Refining and
Distribution Company. Those targeted represent a large portion of
Iran's most important revenue-earning sector.
The action comes amid concern within the administration that
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, who is leading in most
battleground-state polls, could ease sanctions after promising in
the campaign to re-engage with Iran, should he win next week's
The Treasury Department, in issuing the sanctions, said Iran's
petroleum ministry and the blacklisted companies serve as critical
financing sources for the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps' Quds
Force, Iran's elite military unit, which is designated by the U.S.
as a terrorist group for its role in directing Tehran's proxies
"The regime in Iran uses the petroleum sector to fund the
destabilizing activities of the IRGC-QF," said Treasury Secretary
"The few remaining buyers of Iranian crude oil should know that
they are helping to fund Iran's malign activity across the Middle
East, including its support for terrorism," said Secretary of State
Iran's oil minister, Bijan Zanganeh, who was among the officials
targeted by the Treasury Department on Monday, dismissed the action
in a tweet as "a failure of Washington's policy of reducing oil
exports to zero."
"The era of unilateralism is over in the world," he said,
adding, "Iran's oil industry will not be hamstrung."
Although the firms targeted by the U.S. were previously
sanctioned, the new designations come under counterterrorism
authorities, which analysts and former U.S. officials say are much
more difficult to unwind than other types of sanctions. Such
sanctions can also carry tougher penalties for anyone caught
transacting with the blacklisted firms despite the stigma of
working with terror-designated entities.
The designations put nearly all of Iran's petroleum sector under
counterterror sanctions and should act as an additional deterrent
for companies still doing business with Iran, analysts said.
An official at Iran's oil ministry said the sanctions program
was already so extensive that it didn't expect any impact on oil
sales from the new listings. But the new restrictions could stop
companies planning to return to start new discussions with Iran,
the official said.
"Whilst those who currently continue to deal with NIOC or
Iranian oil without benefiting from any license will no doubt shrug
their shoulders, those Western entities looking to legitimately
re-engage after the U.S. election will likely think twice," said
sanctions lawyer Nigel Kushner, who heads London-based W Legal
In justifying its action, Treasury pointed to the sale of nearly
10 million barrels of crude oil by the Quds Force using the
National Iranian Tanker Company's vessels in the spring of 2019,
transactions it said were worth an estimated $5 billion. NITC
couldn't be reached for comment.
Treasury also said Iran's state energy companies were used to
fund Lebanon's Hezbollah, which is designated by the U.S. and
several dozen other nations as a terrorist group, and to support
the Assad regime in Syria.
Companies blacklisted Monday include several firms based in the
U.K. and the United Arab Emirates, some of which the Treasury
Department said were used to ship gasoline to Venezuela in
violation of U.S. sanctions against the Maduro regime.
Mr. Biden has said he would return to the 2015 multilateral Iran
nuclear agreement, which President Trump exited in 2018, if Iran
returns to compliance with the accord. Mr. Biden has also said he
would attempt to negotiate new constraints on Tehran's nuclear
program. The Biden campaign didn't immediately respond to a request
Some European companies were forced to leave the country after
the Trump administration reinstated sanctions in 2018 as they were
more exposed to U.S. pressure. Chinese refiners have continued to
buy Iranian oil despite a total U.S. ban on the purchases.
After collapsing from peak levels of 2.73 million barrels a day
in April 2018 to 481,000 barrels a day in February this year,
Iran's oil exports crept back to 1.2 million barrels a day in
September, according to data from U.S. shipping analytical company
Write to Ian Talley at email@example.com and Benoit Faucon at
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
October 26, 2020 17:24 ET (21:24 GMT)
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