SIM Report: Middle East and Central Asia, 6

Iran: New sanctions against Iran’s oil sector indicate Trump administration’s heightened pressure campaign

 The US Treasury Department announced on Monday (26 October) new sanctions against Iran’s oil sector. Sanctions were imposed on the Ministry of Petroleum, the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) and the National Iranian Tanker Company. All three entities were targeted due to their ‘financial support to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps – Quds Force’. The Quds Force is an elite wing of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) that is responsible primarily for its foreign operations and answers only to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Hosseini Khamenei. It was designated by the US as a terrorist group in 2019 for its role in directing Tehran’s proxies abroad.

A number of front companies with ties to these organisations and individuals were also sanctioned, including the oil minister, Bijan Namdar Zangerneh. In response, Zangerneh tweeted on Monday that the country’s oil industry will not yield to pressure from the US. Four people involved in selling Iranian gasoline to the government of Nicolás Maduro Moros in Venezuela were also penalised. In recent months, ties between Tehran and Caracas have strengthened and become increasingly visible, amid mutual interests in the oil sector and shared hostility towards Washington. The sanctions ban Americans from dealing with the affected individuals and entities and freezes any US the assets they may hold.

The most recent Treasury Department actions put nearly all of Iran’s petroleum sector under sanctions. They are the latest in a series of moves taken by the administration of President Donald Trump to increase economic pressure against Iran. On 8 October, the Treasury Department announced sanctions on 18 Iranian banks in a move that effectively locks Iran out of the global financial system and further weakens the economy, which is already suffering from sanctions and the COVID-19 pandemic. While that move reportedly exempted humanitarian transactions, one of the banks targeted, Middle East Bank, handles imports of food and medicine, and its inclusion in the list will make everyday life more difficult for many Iranians. Other banks listed include Bank Pasargad, Karafarin Bank and Bank Maskan, which engage in mortgages and housing loans, as well as Bank Keshavarzi Iran which is involved in agricultural projects.

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