US imposes sanctions over Iran’s ballistic missile programme

Curbs target Iran-based agent and companies that the Biden administration says obtained supplies for Iran’s programme.

The United States has imposed sanctions on several entities it says are involved in obtaining supplies for Iran’s ballistic missile programme.

In a statement on Wednesday, the US Treasury Department said the sanctions target an Iran-based procurement agent, Mohammad Ali Hosseini, and his network of companies that it accused of procuring “ballistic missile propellant-related materials”.

The department said the materials were procured for an Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRCG) unit responsible for research and development of ballistic missiles, as well as Parchin Chemical Industries, which is part of Iran’s Defense Industries Organization.

“This action reinforces the United States’ commitment to preventing the Iranian regime’s development and use of advanced ballistic missiles,” said Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, Brian E Nelson.

The move comes as the US and Iran are in negotiations to return to the 2015 multilateral nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which saw Tehran scale back its nuclear programme in exchange for the lifting of international sanctions.

Deputy Secretary General of the European External Action Service (EEAS) Enrique Mora and Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Ali Bagheri Kani and delegations wait for the start of a meeting of the JCPOA Joint Commission in Vienna, Austria December 17, 2021, EU Delegation in Vienna
Talks to revive the Iran nuclear deal have been held in Vienna, Austria for nearly a year [File: EU Delegation in Vienna/EEAS/Handout via Reuters]

Former US President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from the agreement in 2018, instead pursuing a “maximum pressure” strategy against Iran, which in turn escalated its nuclear programme beyond the limits set by the pact.

The Biden administration has said it is privileging the path of diplomacy with the Iranian government and wants to get all the parties back into mutual compliance with the JCPOA.

“While the United States continues to seek Iran’s return to full compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, we will not hesitate to target those who support Iran’s ballistic missile program,” Nelson said.

The companies hit with sanctions in Wednesday’s action include Iran-based Jestar Sanat Delijan and Sina Composite Delijan Co, as well as P.B. Sadr Co.

The curbs freeze any US assets of those targeted and generally bar Americans from dealing with them. Those that engage in certain transactions with them also risk being hit with sanctions, the Treasury said.

The department also said the curbs come after recent attacks in the Middle East claimed by Iranian and Iran-linked groups, including IRGC ballistic missile attacks in Erbil in northern Iraq in mid-March, and rocket and drone attacks on Saudi Arabia carried out by Yemen’s Houthi rebels last week.

Meanwhile, indirect negotiations between the US and Iran, which have been under way in Vienna for nearly a year, have overcome repeated disagreements but outstanding issues remain.

Among them is an Iranian demand that the IRGC be removed from a US “terror” blacklist, which Washington has resisted.

Speaking at the Doha Form last weekend, the US special envoy for Iran, Robert Malley, said the nuclear deal is not intended to address Iran’s regional policies or the behaviour of the IRGC.

But he declined to address the specifics of the negotiations or whether the US is considering de-listing the Iranian force.

“Many in the region view the IRGC in the same way that we view it and just witnessed the latest attack in Erbil. But we know this is not a deal that’s going to address that,” Malley said.

“So put aside, regardless of the outcome on the question of [de-listing] the IRGC, which I won’t address, I can tell you that the IRGC will remain sanctioned under US law. And our perception, our views, our policy towards the IRGC will not have changed.”