Trump administration targets Iran steel sector with new sanctions

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With only weeks left in power, US President Donald Trump’s administration is showing no signs of letting up on its maximum pressure campaign against Iran, targeting the country’s steel industry in a fresh round of sanctions on Tuesday.

With only weeks left in power, United States President Donald Trump’s administration is showing no signs of letting up on its maximum pressure campaign against Iran’s economy.

Yet another raft of sanctions was unleashed by the US Department of the Treasury on Tuesday – this time targeting Iran’s steel sector.

The blacklisted entities include a China-based supplier of graphite electrodes needed in steel production as well as 12 Iranian steel and metals producers.  Three foreign-based sales agents of Iranian metals and mining holding companies were also targeted in Tuesday’s actions.

“The Iranian metals sector is an important revenue source for the Iranian regime, 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,” the Treasury said in a statement posted on its website.

The Treasury alleges that the Chinese company Kaifeng Pingmei New Carbon Materials Technology Co, Ltd (KFCC) “fulfilled orders totaling thousands of metric tons of materials for several Iranian steel companies” between December 2019 and June 2020.

The Treasury further claims that in mid-2020, KFCC worked with an Iranian trading firm to sell 300 metric tonnes of graphic electrodes and other equipment to Iranian steelmaker Pasargad Steel Complex.

Pasargad was among the 12 Iranian steel manufacturers and holding companies targeted in Tuesday’s round of punitive US actions.

“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,” US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement posted on the department’s website.

The sanctions actions freeze any US assets of the blacklisted companies and entities and generally bar Americans from dealing with them.

Tensions between Washington and Tehran have risen since Trump abandoned President Barack Obama’s 2015 Iran nuclear deal, and restored harsh sanctions to pressure Tehran to negotiate deeper curbs on its nuclear programme, ballistic missile development and support for regional proxy forces.

President-elect Joe Biden, set to take office on January 20, has said he will return the US to the Obama-era deal if Iran resumes compliance.