By Laura Kelly
January 05, 2021 – 12:10 PM EST
The Trump administration on Tuesday imposed new sanctions on Iran’s metal industry, targeting companies in China, Europe and the United Kingdom that the administration says provides revenue for Tehran to fund destabilizing activities throughout the region.
The sanctions target 17 companies and one individual involved in the sale of graphite, steel and other metals. The companies are Iranian-owned but have locations in China, Germany and the U.K.
The sanctions are part of the Trump administration’s “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran that imposed punishing sanctions following Trump’s withdrawal in 2018 from the Obama-era nuclear deal, called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
“The United States will continue to aggressively implement sanctions with respect to the Iranian regime, those who evade sanctions, and others who enable the regime to fund and carry out its malign agenda of repression and terror,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Tuesday.
“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,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.
The sanctions plan is aimed at financially choking the regime in Tehran in an effort to negotiate a new agreement addressing Iran’s nuclear program, its ballistic weapons and funding of proxy forces fighting throughout the Middle East.
But critics say the campaign has only emboldened Iran to further increase those activities and take provocative actions threatening the U.S. and allies in the region.
The most recent sanctions come amid heightened tensions between Iran and the Trump administration, following an attack last month by Iranian-backed militias in Iraq on the U.S. embassy in Baghdad.
While no U.S. embassy personnel were harmed, the attack badly damaged Iraqi civilian property and one Iraqi civilian was killed, Pompeo said in a statement at the time.
American and Iranian tensions are further strained following the one-year anniversary of the U.S.-targeted drone strike that killed top Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani on Jan. 3, 2019, and the killing in November of a top Iranian nuclear scientist that Iranian officials have accused Israel of carrying out.
Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif on Monday said Iran has increased its uranium enrichment to 20 percent, but that those steps are “fully reversible” if the U.S. returns to compliance with the JCPOA.
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President-elect Joe Biden has vowed to bring the U.S. back into the nuclear deal if Iran returns to compliance with the JCPOA.
Iranian Revolutionary Guard troops also seized a South Korean oil tanker in the Persian gulf on Monday, part of efforts to strengthen Tehran’s leverage in negotiations with Seoul over $7 billion in frozen assets held in South Korea related to U.S. sanctions.
“If anybody is to be called a hostage taker, it is the South Korean government that has taken our more than $7 billion hostage under a futile pretext,” Iranian government spokesman Ali Rabiei said, according to The Associated Press.