The United States has blacklisted 16 companies and an individual linked to Iran's metals industry as part of continued efforts by the outgoing administration of U.S. President Donald Trump to deprive the country of revenue.
The U.S. Treasury said late on January 5 that it was targeting the Iranian metals sector because it is an "important revenue source" for the Iranian leadership, "generating wealth for its corrupt leaders and financing a range of nefarious activities, including the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery, support for foreign terrorist groups, and a variety of human rights abuses, at home and abroad."
Under the sanctions, the targeted entities’ and individuals’ assets that fall under U.S. jurisdiction are frozen and U.S. persons are generally barred from dealing with them.
"The Trump administration remains committed to denying revenue flowing to the Iranian regime as it continues to sponsor terrorist groups, support oppressive regimes, and seek weapons of mass destruction," Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement announcing the new sanctions two weeks before the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden.
There was no immediate comment from Iranian officials.
The U.S. Treasury Department named Kaifeng Pingmei New Carbon Materials Technology, a China-based company that it said makes elements for steel production and provided thousands of metric tons of materials to Iranian steel companies between December 2019 and June 2020.
Among the 12 targeted Iranian companies are the Pasargad Steel Complex and the Gilan Steel Complex
Three foreign-based sales agents of an Iranian metals and mining holding company were also targeted, along with an executive officer of a sanctioned shipping company.
In May 2019, the United States first announced sanctions targeting Iran's steel, aluminum, copper, and iron sectors -- all key sources of revenue for the country.
The Trump administration has vowed to continue its “maximum-pressure” campaign on Iran before Biden’s inauguration on January 20.
The sanctions are the latest in the wake of Trump's 2018 decision to withdraw unilaterally from an international nuclear deal under which Tehran committed to limit its nuclear activities in return for relief from economic sanctions.
The president has argued the 2015 agreement did not go far enough and said economic pressure will force Tehran to end its nuclear program and to stop supporting terrorists. Iran denies seeking nuclear weapons.
In response to the U.S. pullout, Iran has gradually breached parts of the accord.