Biden tightens screws on Iranian oil exports amid stalled nuclear talks

Biden tightens screws on Iranian oil exports amid stalled nuclear talks
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The Biden administration on Friday moved to bolster its pressure on Iran amid stalled nuclear talks by imposing sanctions on members of an oil smuggling network that is suspected of supporting Iran’s military intelligence service. 

Secretary of State Antony BlinkenAntony BlinkenHillicon Valley — Blinken unveils new cyber bureau at State World Bank halts Sudan operations in response to coup Senators urge Biden to waive sanctions on India over Russian defense system purchase MORE said in a statement that the latest round of sanctions were targeted at an oil broker from Oman, who has allegedly worked with senior members of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force to “facilitate shipments of Iranian oil to foreign customers.” 

The Oman national, whom the Treasury Department identified as Mahmood Rashid Amur Al Habsi, used several companies based in Oman, Liberia and Romania to help coordinate the transactions. 

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Al Habsi, as well as the companies, face sanctions under a George W. Bush-era order established after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to punish support for terrorist organizations and activities. 

Friday’s sanctions prohibit U.S. transactions with the Oman oil broker and his affiliated companies, and also warns of additional sanctions on foreign financial institutions that conduct business with the sanctioned parties, according to the Treasury Department.

Andrea Gacki, the director of the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control, said in a statement, “The IRGC-QF is using revenues from its Iranian petroleum sales to fund its malign activities at the expense of the Iranian people.” 

“These sales rely on key foreign intermediaries to obscure the IRGC-QF’s involvement, and Treasury will continue to disrupt and expose anyone supporting these efforts,” she added. 

The move comes as the Biden administration has warned that it would continue to ramp up pressure on Iran to force them to come to the table to negotiate a new version of the failed Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the nuclear agreement from which former President TrumpDonald TrumpOvernight Defense & National Security — Presented by Boeing — Milley warns of 'Sputnik moment' for China WSJ publishes letter from Trump continuing to allege voter fraud in PA Oath Keeper who was at Capitol on Jan. 6 runs for New Jersey State Assembly MORE removed the U.S. in 2018. 

In addition to tighter restrictions on Iran’s oil exports, U.S. officials also previously said that the administration may target Iran’s missile and drone programs. 

The U.S. has condemned Iran for not agreeing to a seventh round of indirect talks in Vienna on potential renegotiations to the Iran nuclear deal. 

Since Trump left the agreement in 2018, Iran has ramped up its uranium enrichment, and has also increased its stockpile of nuclear material and the infrastructure necessary to build a bomb. 

Iran’s new president, Ebrahim Raisi, who was officially sworn into office earlier this month, has signaled that he will maintain a hardline position of continuing to oppose negotiations on the nuclear deal until foreign sanctions are lifted. 

Raisi said days before his swearing in that he would move to lift the U.S sanctions on Iran’s economy, which he called "tyrannical.”