The US announces fresh sanctions against Iran’s petroleum sector

The sanctions mostly target entities and individuals in Iran’s petroleum sector, including the minister of petroleum, Bijan Zangeneh. US sanctions have massively affected Iran’s ability to deal with the outbreak of COVID-19

October 27, 2020 by Peoples Dispatch
Credit : Anadolu Agency

Continuing its “maximum pressure” campaign, the US treasury department issued a fresh round of sanctions on Iran’s petroleum sector on Monday, October 26. The sanctions mostly target entities and individuals in Iran’s petroleum sector, including the minister of petroleum, Bijan Zangeneh.

Some of the entities in the list are Iranian Ministry of Petroleum, the National Iranian Tanker Company and the National Iranian Oil Company. According to the US treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin, the revenue generated by these companies is used to fund Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds force.

The sanctions on the petroleum industry companies are considered to be a reaction to the rise in the Iranian oil exports in recent months as per the estimates by tanker tracker despite multiple US sanctions. The US sanctioned Iranian oil exports first in May 2018 after it unilaterally withdrew from the Iran Nuclear Deal signed by the Barack Obama administration in 2015.

The Iranian petroleum ministry, in response to the new sanctions, said that no amount of pressure can make Iran yield to the US. The US wants to renegotiate the Iran deal or the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Iran and other signatories, which include China, Russia, the UK, France and Germany, have refused to do so.

The Iranian petroleum minister has also called the fresh announcement of sanctions a sign of the failure of the so-called maximum pressure campaign on Iran. The spokesperson of Iran’s permanent mission to the United Nations Alireza Miryousefi criticized the move saying that “US’s hostility towards Iranian people has no limit. US is sanctioning entities that have already been sanctioned under other phony charges.”

Taking a jibe at the US, Iran’s foreign minister Javad Zarif quoted Robert C O’Brien, Trump’s assistant for national security affairs, who said that “US has out-sanctioned its ability to sanction against Iran and Venezuela.” Zarif also called the fresh sanctions an overused economic warfare against Iran.

The US treasury department also imposed sanctions against the UAE and UK-based companies, Mahmoud Madanipour and Mobin International respectively, for entering into an agreement with Venezuelan government owned PDVSA to ship Iranian oil to Venezuela.  

The fall in oil revenue due to the fall in the export has greatly hampered the Iranian economy and its ability to deal with the COVID-19 outbreak in the country. The US has refused to heed the international demand to end the sanctions during the pandemic to allow import of medicine and other health equipment into Iran making its fight against the disease more difficult. Instead, the US has imposed more sanctions on Iran during the last few months arguing that humanitarian supplies are not affected. However, due to the fear of secondary sanctions, most of the suppliers and banks have stopped doing business with Iran leading to massive shortage of essential medical supplies in the country.  

Iran is the worst affected country in the Middle East with over 575,000 cases and around 33,000 deaths. It has seen an unprecedented rise in the fresh cases in recent weeks with close to 6000 on Monday.