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US sanctions 8 entities for facilitating Iranian oil transactions

Trump administration ups ‘maximum pressure’ campaign days ahead of vote, announcing plan to use proceeds from sale of fuel confiscated from Tehran tankers to benefit terror victims

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US correspondent based in New York

This November 19, 2015, file photo, shows a general view of a petrochemical complex in the South Pars gas field in Asalouyeh, Iran, on the northern coast of Persian Gulf. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)
This November 19, 2015, file photo, shows a general view of a petrochemical complex in the South Pars gas field in Asalouyeh, Iran, on the northern coast of Persian Gulf. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)

NEW YORK — The US Treasury Department on Thursday announced new sanctions on eight entities linked to the sale and purchase of Iranian petrochemical products.

The sanctioned companies — based in Iran, China and Singapore — are accused of facilitating transactions by Triliance Petrochemical Co. Ltd., which was sanctioned by the Treasury Department earlier this year.

“The Iranian regime benefits from a global network of entities facilitating the Iranian petrochemical sector,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement. “The United States remains committed to targeting any revenue source the Iranian regime uses to fund terrorist groups and oppress the Iranian people.”

According to the Treasury Department, Triliance has provided funding and support to the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps’ Quds Force, which is designated by the US as a terror group. Petrochemical sales are a major source of revenue for Iran, and the US says Tehran uses funds from the sector to finance a “destabilizing agenda” in the Middle East and Venezuela.

The latest sanctions came three days after similar penalties were slapped on Iran’s oil sector and with the White House appearing determined to intensify its “maximum pressure” campaign against the Islamic Republic with less than a week remaining until the election. US President Donald Trump has said the strategy will bring a buckled Iran to the negotiating table if he wins on November 3.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin talks with reporters outside the White House, October 14, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Also on Thursday, US officials announced that the Trump administration plans to use proceeds from the sale of fuel confiscated from Iranian tankers to benefit victims of terrorism.

The US military in August seized 1.1 million barrels of fuel from four Iranian tankers bound for Venezuela. The fuel has since been sold, and officials say the proceeds will go to a special fund for victims of state-sponsored terrorism.

The money “will now go to a far better use than either regime, Iran or Venezuela, could have envisioned because it will provide relief for victims of terrorism rather than the perpetrators of such acts,” said Elliott Abrams, the State Department’s special representative for Iran and Venezuela.

“So that is both poetic and tangible justice,” he added.

The US estimates that it will be able to recoup some $40 million from the sale, said Michael Sherwin, acting US attorney for the District of Columbia.

A separate forfeiture complaint from the Justice Department centers on Iranian missiles that were seized from flagless vessels in November and February. Officials say the cargo was intended for militant groups in Yemen.

The Trump administration since 2018 has imposed sweeping sanctions aimed at ending all of Iran’s key oil exports, punishing any country that buys oil from the Islamic Republic.

Under new measures announced on Monday, the administration said it was designating the National Iranian Oil Company, Iran’s oil ministry and the National Iranian Tanker Company under a counterterrorism authority, meaning that any future administration would need to take legal measures to reverse the finding.

The Treasury Department issued the sanctions by linking the three entities to the Revolutionary Guards’ elite Quds Force, whose commander, Qassem Soleimani, was killed in a US attack at the Baghdad airport in January.

Joe Biden, who leads in polls ahead of next Tuesday’s election, supports diplomacy with Iran and backed an accord negotiated under former president Barack Obama, under which Tehran sharply curtailed its nuclear work in exchange for promises of sanctions relief.

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