US slaps new sanctions on Iran but shows clear interest in reviving nuclear deal

U.S. announces new sanctions on Iran oil entities as negotiators study draft agreement for revived nuclear deal.

By The Algemeiner

The U.S. announced new sanctions against Iran on Monday with designations for six entities involved in the country’s energy and petrochemical sectors.

In an official statement, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the six companies were engaged in “facilitating illicit transactions related to Iranian petroleum as well as petroleum and petrochemical products, key sources of revenue for the Iranian government.”

Blinken named two of the companies as Pioneer Ship management PTE LTD. which serves as the commercial manager for a vessel that transported Iranian petroleum products, and Golden Warrior Shipping, Co. Ltd., which has engaged in transactions and logistical support related to Iranian petroleum and petroleum products. The four other entities designated provide support for support Iran’s Persian Gulf Petrochemical Industry Commercial Co., a U.S.-designated entity, which continues to be involved in the sale of Iranian petroleum products and petrochemical products abroad, according to the State Department.

The new sanctions were announced amid a new round of speculation over whether the U.S. and the Iranian regime can agree on a revival of the Joint Comprehensive Program of Action (JCPOA), the technical name for the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

Following the publication last week of a Financial Times op-ed by Josep Borell, the EU’s foreign policy chief, asserting that the current text for a renewed agreement was “the best possible deal that I, as facilitator of the negotiations, see as feasible,” U.S. representatives said they were studying the proposal.

Doubt remains over whether Iranian agreement can be secured. “We’ll engage privately with our European allies, but again, we have been willing to accept the deal that has been on the table for some time now and Iran has not,” U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price told reporters last Thursday.

On Monday, however, Blinken gave the clearest signal of U.S. willingness to agree to a new deal for several weeks, saying that Washington is “prepared to move forward on the basis of what’s been agreed.”

Said Blinken: “With regard to the JCPOA, we continue to believe… that that would be the best path forward, a return to compliance on both sides to the JCPOA, to make sure that we are putting Iran’s nuclear program back in a box and averting any kind of crisis.” But, he continued, “it remains to be seen whether Iran is willing and able to move forward.”

Separately, an unnamed EU source told Al-Monitor that the text before the parties was non-negotiable.

“What the parties can agree on is in the text,” the source said. “We will see. Things seem more difficult in Tehran to get an internal agreement.”

One of the main stumbling blocks to a renewed agreement is the U.S. designation of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) as a terrorist entity. President Joe Biden’s administration has repeatedly rejected Iran’s demand that the IRGC lose this status.

However, an unnamed Israeli intelligence source told Al-Monitor that Iran’s main concern was to safeguard the IRGC’s revenue streams.

“The Revolutionary Guards are also a financial empire. They care less about the symbolic aspects,” the source said. “They have no problem with the Revolutionary Guards remaining on the U.S. terror list as long as their economic and financial activities can continue.”

On Sunday, Iran’s top nuclear negotiator, Ali Bagheri Kani, said that Tehran had responded to Borrell’s proposal, writing in a tweet, “we stand ready to conclude the negotiations in a short order, should the other side be ready to do the same.”