On March 17, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced new sanctions on a petrochemical smuggling network and Iran’s nuclear program. He also blasted Tehran's response to the coronavirus outbreak. “The Wuhan virus is a killer and the Iranian regime is an accomplice,” Pompeo said. He urged the regime to release American detainees as a humanitarian gesture.
The State Department designated nine companies in South Africa, Hong Kong and China, as well as three Iranian nationals, for “the purchase, acquisition, sale, transport, or marketing of petrochemical products from Iran” in violation of U.S. sanctions.
During the press conference, Pompeo also accused Iran of covering up the extent of its COVID-19 outbreak. “The Iranian leadership is trying to avoid responsibility for their grossly incompetent and deadly governance,” he said. By March 18, Iran had reported 17,361 cases and 1,135 deaths. Pompeo also repeated Washington’s offer of aid to Tehran. “We are trying to help, we continue to offer assistance to Iran in numerous ways. We have an open humanitarian channel to facilitate legitimate transactions even while ensuring that our maximum pressure campaign denies terrorists money,” Pompeo said.
Pompeo indicated that Iran was considering releasing American detainees. At least six Americans were detained or missing in Iran as of early 2020. “We’re aware that they are thinking about whether to release them [Americans] or not,” Pompeo said. “We are urging them, as we have done publicly many times, to release every American that is being wrongfully held there as a humanitarian gesture given the risk that is posed to them given what’s taking place inside of Iran.” By February 25, COVID-19 cases were reported in at least three Iranian prisons. On March 17, Iran’s judiciary announced that 85,000 healthy prisoners had been released to help stem the spread of the virus.
More Information: Detainees in Iran and U.S.
On the same day, the Department of Commerce separately designated 18 corporations and six individuals— including five Iranian nuclear scientists — for assisting with Iran’s nuclear program, Pakistan’s unsafeguarded nuclear and missile programs, and Russian military modernization efforts. “We have made clear to Iran that it must comply with its nuclear safeguard obligations, and immediately provide the International Atomic Energy Agency nothing short of full cooperation, and the regime continues to refuse,” said Commerce Department Secretary Wilbur Ross. “Iran’s nuclear escalation underscores the serious destabilization that the Iranian regime continues to cause in the region, and the threat posed to international peace and security.” The following is an excerpted transcript from the State Department and a press release from the Department of Commerce.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo
Remarks to the press on March 17
SECRETARY POMPEO: Continuing on designations and our leadership in trying to staunch the flow of terror groups, the Department of State is today also sanctioning nine entities based in South Africa, in Hong Kong, and in China, as well as three Iranian individuals, all for knowingly engaging in significant transactions for the purchase, acquisition, sale, transport, or marketing of petrochemical products from Iran, the world’s largest leading state sponsor of terror.
This action includes the designation of Iran’s armed forces social security investment company and its director for using their resources to invest in sanctioned entities.
I’d also like to mention today that in response to Iran regime’s unacceptable nuclear escalations, the Department of Commerce is adding five Iranian nuclear scientists to the entities list.
These five individuals were involved in Iran’s pre-2004 nuclear weapons program, known as the Amad program, and continue to be employed by the regime to this day. After work on the Amad plan was stopped, Iran continued to preserve its Amad-era records and its cadre of nuclear weapons scientists, including these individuals.
Many unanswered questions remain about Iran’s undisclosed past nuclear-related activities. These new listings today by the Department of Commerce reaffirm the importance of demanding a full and honest accountability and accounting from Iran of its past nuclear weapons-related activities.
I also want to call attention to the Iranian regime’s misinformation campaign surrounding the origination of the Wuhan virus. Instead of focusing on the needs of the Iranian people and accepting genuine offers of support, senior Iranians lied about the Wuhan virus outbreak for weeks.
The Iranian leadership is trying to avoid responsibility for their grossly incompetent and deadly governance. Sadly, the Iranian people have been suffering these kinds of lies for 41 years. They know the truth: The Wuhan virus is a killer and the Iranian regime is an accomplice.
We’re trying to help. We continue to offer assistance to Iran in numerous ways and we will continue to do so.
We have an open humanitarian channel to facilitate legitimate transactions even while ensuring our maximum pressure campaign denies terrorists money.
We are assisting the IAEA, the nuclear watchdog, their inspectors, who are trying to ensure that Iran continues to comply with the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.
We’ve allocated a million dollars through the IAEA to provide member-states that requested support with coronavirus test kits and training.
And in the spirit of humanitarian gestures, the United States also continues to call on Iran to immediately release all wrongfully detained Americans being held inside of that country. We will continue to hold the regime responsible for its terror and we will continue to assist the Iranian people.
QUESTION: You mentioned prisoners in Iran. A UK citizen was just temporarily released for two weeks, but Siamak Namazi lawyer said that he was denied medical follow. Do you have any indication that there is a possibility for a U.S. citizen to be released or fresh talks on prisoner swap? And do you have a U.S. own assessment on the death toll in Iran, as some exile organizations mention more than 5,000 death?
SECRETARY POMPEO: So as for Iran, that’s an excellent question. I don’t talk about our efforts to get Americans home, what we’re actually doing. But the family members of those that are being held – and frankly, that’s for all Americans that are being wrongfully detained should know we’re working on this every day. We’re aware of what Iran has been doing with some of the prisoners given the outbreak of the Wuhan virus there. We’re aware that they are thinking about whether to release them or not. Everyone should know that we’re working it. We are communicating with them. We are urging them, as we have done publicly many times, to release every American that is being wrongfully held there as a humanitarian gesture given the risk that is posed to them given what’s taking place inside of Iran.
We use – for purposes of how many people have been impacted in Iran, we use the data set that is the global data set. It’s a big number; it’s a real concern. I spoke with the head of the World Health Organization just this morning, Dr. Tedros, where we talked expressly about Iran and how America might be able to help. We made a commitment to do everything we can to provide them with all that America can deliver for Iran. I hope they’ll accept that offer. That alone will contribute to Iran being able to manage this problem set for the Iranian people. I hope they’ll take us up on these humanitarian efforts, not only us but countries all around the world who want to come help the Iranian people stay healthy and mitigate the risk that’s there.
Department of Commerce
Press release from March 17
The Bureau of Industry and Security in the Department of Commerce announced today that it will add six individuals and 18 corporations to the Entity List for enabling or assisting with Iran’s nuclear program, Pakistan’s unsafeguarded nuclear and missile programs, and Russian military modernization efforts. The Entity List additions include five Iranian nuclear officials, one company in Iran, two entities in China, nine in Pakistan, and five in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) involved in assisting weapons of mass destruction (WMD) activities in Iran and Pakistan. Today’s action also includes two companies in Russia for circumventing license requirements for a party previously added to the Entity List.
“We have made clear to Iran that it must comply with its nuclear safeguard obligations, and immediately provide the International Atomic Energy Agency nothing short of full cooperation, and the regime continues to refuse,” said Department of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. “Iran’s nuclear escalation underscores the serious destabilization that the Iranian regime continues to cause in the region, and the threat posed to international peace and security. This Administration and the Department of Commerce are committed to taking the actions necessary to prevent Iran from ever acquiring a nuclear weapon.”
The actions today constrict the export of items subject to the Export Administration Regulations (EAR) to these 24 entities. The five Iranian nuclear officials were added for their involvement in nuclear-related activities that are contrary to the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States. The five additional Iranian and UAE entities were added for conspiring to transship U.S.-origin items to Iran, procuring or attempting to procure on behalf of U.S. Government-designated entities in Iran, and transporting military-related items on behalf of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps—a U.S.-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization and supporter of WMD proliferation—and the Ministry of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics, which oversees much of Iran’s nuclear program.
The Entity List additions also include 12 companies in Pakistan and the UAE that have been involved or have made significant contributions to Pakistan’s unsafeguarded nuclear and missile programs. “Efforts by companies to illicitly procure U.S. technologies in support of unsafeguarded WMD programs are unacceptable and will not be tolerated,” Secretary Ross continued. “The Department of Commerce will continue to aggressively investigate and designate parties who do so.”
Pursuant to Section 744.11(b) of the EAR, the Entity List identifies persons or organizations reasonably believed to be involved, or to pose a significant risk of being or becoming involved, in activities contrary to the national security or foreign policy interests of the United States. The EAR imposes additional license requirements on, and limits the availability of most license exceptions for, exports, re-exports, and transfers (in-country) to listed entities.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo
Statement from March 18
On March 16, in response to the Iranian regime’s unacceptable nuclear escalations, the Department of Commerce is imposing restrictions on five Iranian nuclear scientists by adding them to the Department of Commerce’s Entity List. These five individuals were involved in Iran’s pre-2004 nuclear weapons program (the “Amad Plan”) and continue to be employed by the regime to this day. After work on the Amad Plan was stopped, Iran continued to preserve its Amad-era records and its cadre of nuclear weapons scientists, including these individuals. The Department of Commerce’s Entity List contains foreign persons who are subject to specific export licensing requirements.
As the world learned from Iran’s Amad-era records, unanswered questions remain regarding Iran’s undisclosed past nuclear-related activities, including activities related to the development of a nuclear payload for a missile. Today’s new listings by the Department of Commerce reaffirm the importance of demanding a full and honest accounting from Iran of its past nuclear-weapons-related activities. The Acting IAEA Director General reported in November 2019 that the IAEA is currently investigating the detection of chemically processed uranium particles at an undeclared location in Iran, and that “the presence of nuclear material particles is an indicator of possible undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran.” Iran must be fully transparent with the IAEA and the international community.
The individuals added to the Commerce Entity List (along with their dates and places of birth) are: Aref Bali Lashak (September 19, 1963, Nowshar, Iran) served as a senior expert within the AMAD plan, Sayyed Mohammad, Mehdi Hadavi (September 22, 1963, Tehran, Iran) was a project supervisor during the AMAD plan, Kamran Daneshjou (July 5, 1957, Damavand, Iran) served as the head of AMAD plan project 111 (which according to the IAEA was an effort to modify a Shahab-3 re-entry vehicle to house a probable nuclear device); Mehdi Teranchi (July 5, 1956, Tehran, Iran) served as project supervisor in AMAD subproject 3/30 (which was in charge of nuclear explosive testing); Ali Mehdipour Omrani (April 16, 1973, Tonekaban, Iran) served as senior expert in AMAD subproject 3/11 (the project simulation group in charge of nuclear weapons design).
Individuals working for Iran’s proliferation-sensitive programs should be aware of the reputational and financial risks to which they expose themselves. Iran’s scientists and technical experts have two paths: they can use their skills pursuing work on projects that do not pose a proliferation risk, or they can work for Iranian organizations pursuing proliferation-sensitive activities, with the financial and reputational risk such work entails.
Iran’s recent escalation of sensitive nuclear fuel cycle activities underscores the serious challenge the Iranian regime poses to international peace and security. The time is now for the international community to stand together against Iran’s nuclear extortion. If the world is concerned with Iran’s behavior now, it should consider how Iran would behave with a nuclear weapon.
Press release from March 18
On March 18, the U.S. Department of State imposed sanctions, pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13846, on the following seven entities for knowingly engaging in a significant transaction for the purchase, acquisition, sale, transport, or marketing of petrochemical products from Iran.
- South African company SPI International Proprietary Limited;
- Hong Kong-based companies McFly Plastic HK Limited, Saturn Oasis Co., Limited, and Sea Charming Shipping Company Limited; and
- Chinese companies Dalian Golden Sun Import & Export Co., Ltd., Tianyi International (Dalian) Co., Ltd., and Aoxing Ship Management (Shanghai) Ltd.
The U.S. Department of State imposed sanctions, pursuant to E.O. 13846, on the following two entities, each of which owns or controls SPI International Proprietary Limited and had knowledge of its sanctionable activities.
- South African company Main Street 1095; and
- Iranian entity Armed Forces Social Security Investment Company
The U.S. Department of State imposed sanctions, pursuant to E.O. 13846, on the following three individuals, each of which is an executive officer of one of the above entities.
- Mohammad Hassan Toulai, Managing Director of Armed Forces Social Security Investment Company;
- Hossein Tavakkoli, Director of SPI International Proprietary Limited; and
- Reza Ebadzadeh Semnani, Director of Main Street 1095