Some Iranian companies continue to flout the US-imposed sanctions, including the acceleration of its nuclear program, which directly violated the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

Caught Red Handed

Last week, the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) imposed a new sanction on international companies involved in Iranian petrochemicals and petroleum trade to end users in East and South Asia.

According to the Treasury Department, “Iranian brokers and several front companies in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Hong Kong, and India” facilitated payment transfers and the shipment of Iranian oil, aiding in concealing the origin of the Iranian shipments. This also allowed two sanctioned Iranian brokers, Triliance Petrochemical Co. Ltd. (Triliance) and Persian Gulf Petrochemical Industry Commercial Co. (PGPICC), to conduct million-dollar worth of transactions with Asian buyers.

Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken accused the two People’s Republic of China (PRC)-based entities: Zhonggu Storage and Transportation Co. Ltd. and WS Shipping Co. Ltd., of their involvement in Iran’s petrochemical and petroleum trade.

Washington has warned that it will continue to impose sanctions on Iranian petroleum products as long as Tehran continues to expand its nuclear program.

“The United States is committed to severely restricting Iran’s illicit oil and petrochemical sales,” said Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian E. Nelson in a statement. “So long as Iran refuses a mutual return to full implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the United States will continue to enforce its sanctions on the sale of Iranian petroleum and petrochemical products.”

JCPOA, commonly known as the Iran nuclear deal, is an agreement on the Iranian nuclear program reached in Vienna in 2015 between Iran and the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (P5+1), which includes China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, the US, plus Germany—in partnership with the European Union. Under the deal, Iran agreed to limit its uranium enrichment activities, consequently slowing the pace of the development of its nuclear arms in exchange for international sanction relief. However, then-President Donald Trump ditched the deal in 2018, explaining that the 2015 nuclear agreement “did not do enough to curb” Iran’s weapon development and reimposed sanctions that significantly crippled the latter’s economy.

JCPOA 2015
The ministers of foreign affairs and other officials from the P5+1 countries, the European Union, and Iran announced the framework of a Comprehensive agreement on the Iranian nuclear program on April 5, 2015. (Image source: Wikimedia Commons)

Among the sanctions set is the restriction of oil and petrochemical exportation, with the US clearly cautioning “anyone involved in such sales and transactions should immediately stop,” or else will be subjected to punitive action like the Hong Kong-based Triliance and Iran-based PGPICC. Other companies accused and subjected to sanctions include Tibalaji Petrochem Private Limited, Clara Shipping LLC, Iran Chemical Industries Investment Company, Kimiya Pars Co, Sierra Vista Trading Limited, and Virgo Marine, Reuters reported.

Will the 2015 Nuclear Deal Make a Comeback?

Iran previously stated that “it saw no point in reviving the 2015 nuclear pact,” claiming that the US might withdraw again in addition to its demand that the UN inspectors must close investigations on its nuclear program.

“What is the use of having a revived deal without assuring guarantees that the US will not violate again?” Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi said at the United Nations General Assembly. “How can we have a lasting agreement if these probes are not closed? We can have a good deal if Americans and Europeans fulfill their commitments.”

However, a US official dismissed the claims, saying that the stance was “unreasonable” and that the investigation would not be closed unless Tehran provided satisfactory answers to the IAEA.

“In a nutshell, we’ve hit a wall because of Iran’s position and I think their position is so unreasonable in terms of what they’re asking for with regards to the IAEA probe into the unexplained presence of traces of uranium particles,” a senior US State Department official told reporters—further adding that the US will not put pressure on IAEA and respects the independence and integrity of the agency.

Since incumbent President Joe Biden resumed office, his administration has made slight progress in reviving the Iranian nuclear deal. Nearly. It didn’t really breakthrough through obstacles, including Tehran’s demand on Washington to provide a guarantee that the pact will not be abandoned again by any future US president, along with IAEA—which Biden could not guarantee 100 percent due to the agreement’s political nature rather than being a legally binding treaty.

Hence, leaving the decision of the revival into Tehran’s hands since it’s clear as day that Western diplomats are already rooted on its stand regarding the issue—and the former has to make a decision fast considering the unpleasant situation of its economy—reiterating the words of French President Emmanuel Macron: “The ball on reaching a nuclear deal with Iran is now in Tehran’s camp.”