US sanctions Chinese, German and UK companies linked to Iran

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The US government on Tuesday sanctioned 17 companies, including firms based in China, Germany and the United Kingdom, for being linked to Iran’s steel industry.

The sanctions, applied during President Trump’s final month in office, follow Iran’s Monday announcement that it will refine uranium to close to the purity needed for nuclear bombs.

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said, “The Trump Administration remains committed to denying revenue flowing to the Iranian regime as it continues to sponsor terrorist groups, support oppressive regimes, and seek weapons of mass destruction.”

Trump withdrew the US in 2018 from President Barack Obama’s Iran nuclear deal and reimposed harsh economic sanctions, saying there were insufficient safeguards against Iranian nuclear weapons development. Some Democrats want President-elect Joe Biden to rejoin the deal and relax sanctions.

The new sanctions will make it difficult for the companies to operate by cutting them off from the US-led international banking system.

According to the Treasury Department, “The Iranian metals sector is an important revenue source for the Iranian regime, generating wealth for its corrupt leaders and financing a range of nefarious activities, including the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery, support for foreign terrorist groups, and a variety of human rights abuses, at home and abroad.”

The new sanctions include the Chinese company Kaifeng Pingmei New Carbon Materials Technology Co., Ltd., which the Treasury Department says “specializes in the manufacture of carbon materials, key elements in steel production.”

The Chinese firm filled “orders totaling thousands of metric tons of materials for several Iranian steel companies” during a six-month period ending in June, the Treasury Department said, and in mid-2020 “sold 300 metric tons of graphite electrodes and miscellaneous equipment to Pasargad Steel Complex in Iran.”

The Iran-based company Middle East Mines and Mineral Industries Development Holding Company and its overseas subsidiaries also were sanctioned.

Germany-based subsidiary GMI Projects Hamburg GmbH “paid foreign companies for procurement of parts and machinery on behalf of Sirjan Iranian Steel and Zarand Iranian Steel Company,” the Treasury Department said.

The China-based subsidiary World Mining Industry Co., Ltd., meanwhile, “seeks to develop business relationships with Chinese suppliers in the industry.” The UK-based subsidiary GMI Projects Ltd. was also sanctioned.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said, “The United States will continue to aggressively implement sanctions with respect to the Iranian regime, those who evade sanctions, and others who enable the regime to fund and carry out its malign agenda of repression and terror.”

On Monday, Iranian state TV reported that President Hassan Rouhani gave the go-ahead for 20 percent uranium refinement at the country’s Fordo nuclear facility, moving the country to within one technical step of the purity required for bomb-making.

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