The United States imposed new sanctions on Iran that target the country’s petrochemical industry due to its ties with the elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), the U.S. Treasury Department announced Friday.
“This action is a warning that we will continue to target holding groups and companies in the petrochemical sector and elsewhere that provide financial lifelines to the IRGC,” Treasury Secretary, Steven Mnuchin, said in a statement.
The IRGC controls a significant part of the Iranian economy and is deeply imbedded in the financial system. In April, the U.S. designated the IRGC and its extraterritorial branch, the Quds Force, a foreign terrorist organization – the first time the U.S. has ever blacklisted an entire military branch.
According to the U.S. Treasury, Iran’s oil ministry last year awarded Khatam al-Anbiya, the IRGC’s economic and engineering arm, ten projects in the oil and petrochemical sectors worth $22 billion – accounting for more than four times the official budget of the IRGC.
The new sanctions specifically target the Persian Gulf Petrochemical Industries Company (PGPIC) and extend to its 39 subsidiaries and “foreign-based sales agents,” including the UK-based NPC International and Philippines-based NPC Alliance Corporation that are controlled by PGPIC.
The company is Iran’s largest petrochemical holding group and accounts for 40 percent the country’s petrochemical-production capacity, as well as 50 percent of its petrochemical exports.
A senior U.S. official told Reuters that the move “would continue to have a very chilling effect on the prospects for any future recovery for the Iranian economy.” The petroleum and petrochemical industries “have been serving for the last 40 years as a kind of institutionalized slush fund for the IRGC,” the official added.
An Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman slammed the new sanctions as another instance of “economic terrorism” and a continuation of U.S. “enmity” against the Islamic Republic.
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