US Sanctions Iran Oil Sales Network

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The US Treasury Department on Wednesday blacklisted an alleged network of companies brokering the sale of Iranian oil and petrochemicals.

The fresh sanctions come after diplomatic talks aimed at curbing Iran’s nuclear program in return for sanctions relief broke down in Doha last week.

The companies being blacklisted are located in Vietnam, Singapore, the United Arab Emirates and Hong Kong. They largely facilitated oil trade into China and worked on behalf of Iranian firms that have already been sanctioned by the US. Last month the US targeted several other companies and people for related petrochemical trade.

Iran has continued to trade oil in spite of US sanctions, which were reimposed after the US withdrew from the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in 2018.

Diplomatic Breakdown?

The new blacklisting came a day after the top US negotiator for the Iran deal expressed skepticism about whether Tehran would sign onto an updated version of the JCPOA, which limited Iran’s nuclear program and eased energy sector sanctions.

“We’re waiting to see whether Iran can get itself to cross the finish line,” Rob Malley, the US negotiator, told US broadcasting network NPR on Tuesday. "Our assessment is that they haven’t made the fundamental decision whether they are interested or not.”

Malley accused the Iranians of bringing up topics not related to the JCPOA.

“They have, including in Doha, added demands that I think anyone looking at this would be viewed as having nothing to do with the nuclear deal," he said.

Iranian officials in turn have pointed the finger at Washington, with the country’s ambassador to the UN, Majid Takht Ravanchi, saying last week that the “ball is in the US’ court.”

Iran on Wednesday accused the UK deputy head of mission in Iran, Giles Whitaker, and several other diplomats of spying on Iran by taking samples from the soil during a missile exercise.

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