The “snapback” to U.S. sanctions placed on Iran prior to the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) effectively kicked in at midnight Monday. President Trump withdrew the U.S. from the treaty on May 8.
According to the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), Monday marks the “largest ever single day targeting the Iranian regime.” The restored sanctions cover more than 700 individuals, entities, aircraft and vessels.
“OFAC’s action is designed to disrupt the Iranian regime’s ability to fund its broad range of malign activities and places unprecedented financial pressure on the Iranian regime to negotiate a comprehensive deal that will permanently prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, cease Iran’s development of ballistic missiles and end Iran’s broad range of malign activities,” the agency said.
Individuals and entities placed on OFAC’s Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons (SDN) List include more than 400 targets, including over 200 people and vessels, in Iran’s marine shipping and energy sectors, in addition to Iran Air and its 65 planes.
The two largest Iranian maritime companies included among the sanctions are the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines (IRISL) and oil transport giant National Iranian Tanker Co. (NITC). OFAC also added 65 IRISL subsidiaries and related individuals, as well as 122 vessels, to the SDN list.
OFAC noted that IRISL subsidiary, Valfajr Shipping Company PJS, has been used regularly by the Iranian military to transfer personnel, cargo and containers from Iran to major ports in the Persian Gulf region. Hafez Darya Arya Shipping Co., another IRISL subsidiary, has shipped cargo to at least one known cover company for Iran’s Defense Industries Organization (DIO), which is part of Iran’s nuclear and missile programs.
OFAC identified 37 NITC-affiliated entities and vessels in which NITC has an interest. “Each year, these vessels move tens of millions of barrels’ worth of Iranian oil, as well as Iranian natural gas, which constitute a major source of revenue to fund the Iranian regime’s malign activities. It is essential to close off this funding stream to Tehran,” OFAC said.
The agency warned the shipping industry to be alert to Iranian attempts to change vessel names or use other tactics, such as creating new front companies, to disguise these assets from U.S. sanctions.
However, the U.S. in the interim has exempted Japan, China, India, Italy, Greece, South Korea, Taiwan and Turkey from the sanctions due to their heavy dependence on Iranian oil imports.
“Make no mistake about it, the Iranians will do everything they can to circumvent these sanctions,” said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at a press conference on Friday with Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin. “They’ll turn off ships, they’ll try and do it through private vessels, they’ll try and find third parties that don’t interact with the United States to provide insurance mechanisms. The list of Iranian efforts to circumvent these sanctions is long.”
OFAC said persons that engage in certain transactions with the entities designated and identified Monday may themselves be exposed to enforcement action, designation or blocking sanctions.