The U.S. has held back on sanctioning foreign firms involved in illicit Iranian oil exports as it tries to pressure Iran into renegotiating a cap on Iran’s nuclear program, The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday.
Officials within the Biden administration have debated sanctions against Iraqi and Emirati firms helping Iran smuggle fuel oil out of the country, blacklisting some companies but holding back on measures that would target Iran’s entire sanctions evasion network, according to the WSJ. Current and former officials speculated Biden could be delaying full sanctions enforcement to entice Iran into compromise on the agreement, but so far negotiations have stalled.
“So long as the Iranians don’t take the offer on the table and return to the JCPOA [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action], my expectation would be that we will continue to see a rollout of these sorts of enforcement actions on a pretty regular basis going forward,” a senior administration official told the WSJ.
The subjects of a possible new round of sanctions include a UAE businessman and a group of Iraqi companies using ship-to-ship transfers in the Gulf to mix in Iranian oil with Iraqi, the WSJ reported. Forged documents label the oil as Iraqi, allowing Iran to bypass U.S. sanctions.
The smuggling operation could account for as much as 25% of Iran’s fuel oil exports, Robert Greenway, senior director for Middle East policy at the National Security Council under former President Donald Trump, told the WSJ.
Western corporations, including Exxon Mobil and Shell, also bought the oil or served as intermediaries for the companies involved in blending it, according to documents seen by the WSJ. A Shell spokesman said the company is reviewing commercial procedures for possible sanctions violations.
Two previous U.S. sanctions packages targeted companies smuggling Iranian oil, a bid at increasing pressure on Iran to comply with the negotiation process, the WSJ reported. The UAE has provided illicit support for Iran in other ways, including constructing an unofficial trading infrastructure in the Gulf to funnel sanctioned goods into Iran.
Biden reaffirmed his support for a diplomatic solution to Iran’s nuclear program at a meeting with Arab leaders in July.
Top UN JCPOA coordinator Josep Borrell proffered a draft text of a new deal trading sanctions relief for curbs on Iran’s nuclear program Tuesday, Reuters reported. Iran, a self-proclaimed nuclear threshold state, indicated Sunday that it would continue to work with a UN version.
“As Iran, we stand ready to conclude the negotiations in a short order, should the other side be ready to do the same,” Ali Bagheri Kani, political deputy at Iran’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said Sunday, Reuters reported.
Decisions need to be taken now on the #JCPOA to seize this unique opportunity to succeed, and to free up the great potential of a fully implemented deal.
— Josep Borrell Fontelles (@JosepBorrellF) July 30, 2022
The Iranian Foreign Ministry and Department of Energy, White House and the U.S. Treasury Department did not respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.
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