Washington: The United States imposed new sanctions on Iran on Tuesday to maintain economic pressure, despite the country’s offer to help Tehran respond to a coronavirus pandemic and called on the Islamic Republic to release detained Americans.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said at a news conference that Iran is planning to release some US citizens. He made it clear during the press conference that Washington will maintain its maximum pressure campaign to stop Tehran’s oil export capacity.
The campaign was launched after President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal in 2015 with six major powers in Iran, with the aim of forcing Iran to limit its nuclear, missile and regional activities.
Pompeo said on Tuesday that the State Department is blacklisting nine entities in South Africa, Hong Kong and mainland China, as well as three Iranians, to engage in “big deals” with Iranian petrochemicals.
Pompeo said that while he did not disclose their names, he was blacklisted, among others, by the Iranian Armed Forces Social Security Investment Corporation and its directors who invest in sanctioned entities.
The United States Department of Commerce also said it will add six people, including five Iranian nuclear scientists, and eighteen companies to the United States “Entity List” to support Iran’s nuclear program, Pakistan’s unsecured nuclear and missile programs, and Russia’s military modernization work.
The U.S. Department of Commerce said the move involved one company in Iran, two companies in China, nine companies in Pakistan, and five companies in the United Arab Emirates, but did not reveal their names and limit exports to them.
The ministry said the list of entities lists foreign parties that may not receive some or all items subject to U.S. export regulations unless the exporter obtains a permit.
Because of the sensitivity of the case, a person familiar with the issue said Monday, on condition of anonymity, that while China has called on Iran to do so because of the pandemic, the United States is unlikely to relax sanctions against Iran.
Pompeo urged Iran to release US citizens who were humanely detained for coronavirus. In one of the worst national outbreaks outside of China, Iran reported 16,169 cases of coronavirus, of which 988 died.
“We are aware that they are thinking about whether to release them or not,” Pompeo told reporters. “We are urging them … to release every American that is being wrongfully held there as a humanitarian gesture, given the risk that is posed.”
It is unclear how many Americans can house Iran, but this includes father-son Baquer and Siamak Namazi. Veteran Michael White; Robert Levinson may be a former FBI agent and has disappeared since 2007.