New US sanctions aim to dent Iran’s metal producers

The U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) will impose new economic sanctions against 17 Iranian metal producers and mining companies in the aftermath of a recent missile attack against American military forces in Iraq.

The sanctions also target a network of three China- and Seychelles-based entities and a vessel involved in the purchase, sale and transfer of Iranian metal products.

OFAC said it will work with its counterparts at the Department of State to add further sanctions against persons operating in or transacting with other sectors of the Iranian economy, including construction, mining, manufacturing and textiles.

The Trump administration said Iran’s metals industries generate “billions of dollars annually” for the Iranian regime and contribute to the country’s nuclear weapons development.

“These sanctions will continue until the regime stops the funding of global terrorism and commits to never having nuclear weapons,” said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in a statement

Iran launched missile attacks on Tuesday in response to the Trump administration-approved killing of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani near the Baghdad airport late last week.

The new sanctions target the Mobarakeh Steel Co., which is considered the biggest steel producer in the Middle East and the biggest direct reduced iron producer in the world. The company produces more than 50% of Iran’s steel in all markets, OFAC said.

Other Iranian steel companies to be sanctioned include Saba Steel, Hormozgan Steel, Esfahan Steel, Oxin Steel, Khorasan Steel, South Kaveh Steel, Iran Alloy Steel, Golgohar Mining and Industrial , Chadormalu Mining and Industrial, Arfa Iron and Steel, Khouzestan Steel and Iranian Ghadir Iron & Steel.

Sanctions will also apply to Oman-based Reputable Trading Source, which is owned and controlled by Iran-based Khouzestan Steel Co.

These companies will be placed on OFAC’s Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons (SDN) List. U.S. persons and companies are generally prohibited from conducting business with individuals or entities on the list.

Iranian aluminum and copper companies to be added to the SDN List include the Iran Aluminum Co., which accounts for about 75% of the country’s aluminum output; Al-Mahdi Aluminum Corp.; National Iranian Copper Industries, the largest copper producer in the Middle East; and ore trader Khalagh Tadbir Pars Co.

OFAC has placed China-based trading company Pamchel Trading Beijing Co. Ltd. on the SDN List for allegedly buying “tens of thousands of metric tons of steel slabs” each month from Iran’s Esfahan Mobarakeh Steel Co.

Seychelles-based Power Anchor Ltd., which was also added to the SDN List, works as a “front company” to Pamchel Trading to “obfuscate the true Iranian end user for metals-related materials shipped to Iran,” OFAC said.

In addition, the Treasury agency added Zhejian, China-based Hongyuan Marine Co. Ltd. and its vessel Hong Xun for transporting steel slabs for Esfahan Mobarakeh from Bandar Abbas, Iran, to China.

Taking aim at Iran’s political leadership, OFAC announced that it is adding to the SDN List Ali Shamkhani, secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council; Mohammad Reza Ashtiani, deputy chief of staff of Iran’s armed forces; and Gholamreza Soleimani, the head of the Basij militia of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).

Asked during a televised White House press conference on Friday morning about the effectiveness of economic sanctions against Iran, Mnuchin said, “We have 100% confidence” that the sanctions are “cutting off” the regime from billions of dollars in funds.

The Trump administration began strengthening unilateral economic sanctions against Iran after withdrawing the U.S. from the multilateral Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), otherwise known as the Iran nuclear deal, in May 2018. Trump has repeatedly faulted the effectiveness of the 2015 treaty.

U.S. sanctions against Iran have previously taken aim at Iran’s oil and gas sector, another major source of funding for the Iranian regime.