The United States on Wednesday announced sanctions on Chinese companies for buying Iranian oil, stepping up pressure despite European attempts to arrange talks between Washington and Tehran. Speaking to a pressure group opposed to the Iranian regime on the sidelines of the United Nations, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the actions were in response to violations of unilateral US sanctions.
“We’re telling China, and all nations — know that we will sanction every violation of sanctions of all activity,” Pompeo told United Against a Nuclear Iran. He said that sanctions were being placed both on the companies and on their chief executives.
The secretary said that the United States was aiming also at splitting the elite Revolutionary Guards from the rest of the Iranian company. The unit, known formally as the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), is in charge of protecting the regime and has vast business holdings.
“The United States will intensify efforts to educate countries and companies on the risk of doing business with IRGC entities, and we will punish them if they persist in defiance of our warnings,” Pompeo said.
The actions come as France leads last-minute efforts to arrange a meeting at the United Nations between US President Donald Trump and his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani to defuse tensions.
Before US sanctions on Chinese companies
In June, the US had told India and other countries to cut oil imports from Iran to “zero” by 4 November or face sanctions, making it clear that there would be no waivers to anyone. While Iran was till then India’s third-largest oil supplier behind Iraq and Saudi Arabia, the Narendra Modi government’s constantly improving international relations ensured that alternatives were found fast. Iran supplied 18.4 million tonnes of crude oil during April 2017 and January 2018 (first 10 months of 2017-18 fiscal).
In April, President Donald Trump had withdrawn the United States from the landmark Iran nuclear deal, re-imposing US sanctions that had been suspended in return for curbs on Tehran’s nuclear programme. At the time, the Trump administration had given foreign companies either 90 or 180 days to wind up their business with Iranian counterparts, depending on the type of commercial activity.
Once India obliged, Washington stepped up pressure on China to completely stop buying oil from Iran. A US official said Chinese companies would be subject to the same sanctions as those in other countries. “Their companies will be subject to the same sanctions that everybody else’s is if they engage in those sectors of the economy that are sanctionable, where there were sanctions imposed prior to 2015. We will certainly be requesting that their oil imports go to zero,” the State Department official said on condition of anonymity. We view this as one of our top national security priorities,” the official had said.