US targets Iran’s petrochemical industry with sanctions

U.S. Treasury Department on Friday issued new sanctions on Iran’s petrochemical industry, including the country’s largest petrochemical company for providing financial support to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

“By targeting this network we intend to deny funding to key elements of Iran’s petrochemical sector that provide support to the IRGC,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.

The agency also targeted the company’s 39 subsidiaries, which together with the company hold 40% of the country’s total petrochemical production and export 50% of Iran’s petrochemical product.

Tensions have risen since U.S. President Donald Trump decided to unilaterally withdraw Washington from an international pact world powers struck with Iran to curb its nuclear program.

The Trump administration went on to pursue a number of efforts meant to scuttle the agreement, including the reimposition of U.S. sanctions on Iranian oil, which went into full effect last month.

In April, the U.S. also designated the IRGC a terror group, marking the first time a government agency has been blacklisted as a terrorist body.

The IRGC has sprawling business interests across the Iranian economy, and was created to be the vanguard of Iran’s 1979 revolution. It operates more autonomously than the rest of the Iranian military, answering only to Iran’s supreme leader.

The sanctions were placed on the Persian Gulf Petrochemical Industries Company (PGPIC), for providing support to Khatam al-Anbiya Construction, which is the engineering arm of the IRGC, Iran’s elite military force in charge of the country’s ballistic missile and nuclear program.

The Treasury Department said Iran’s Ministry of Petroleum had given Khatam al-Anbiya 10 different projects in the petrochemical and oil industries which totaled $22 billion.

It is also placing sanctions on entities based in the UK, Philippines, and the UAE for being either owned by or involved with the PGPIC.