Intel: US sanctions Iran shipping line after humanitarian deferral ends

al-monitor A truck carrying Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines (IRISL) containers arrives at a depot in northern Singapore, Feb. 4, 2012.  Photo by REUTERS/Thomas White/File Photo.

Jun 8, 2020

The Donald Trump administration sanctioned an Iranian shipping line and its Chinese subsidiary today after a six-month humanitarian deferral period ended.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo first announced sanctions on Mahan Air alongside the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines (IRISL) and its Shanghai-based subsidiary, E-Sail Shipping Company Ltd (E-Sail), in December. Pompeo noted in a statement today that the Trump administration delayed the IRISL and E-Sail sanctions for six months “to allow exporters of humanitarian goods to Iran sufficient time to find alternate shipping methods.”

“Now that this generous delay has come to an end, those in the commercial and maritime industries doing business with Iran must use carriers or shipping methods other than IRISL or E-Sail,” said Pompeo. If not, humanitarian exporters could run afoul of US nonproliferation sanctions on Iran.

Why it matters: While the Treasury Department maintains a formal sanctions exemption for humanitarian trade with Iran, the sanctions on E-Sail are likely to pose another obstacle to Tehran’s ability to import food and medicine.

Treasury Department website guidance notes that the E-Sail sanctions cover “agricultural commodities, food, medicine or medical devices,” warning that anyone who engages in humanitarian transactions risks “exposure to sanctions.”

Pompeo asserted that the Iranian shipping line “has repeatedly transported items related to Iran’s ballistic missile and military programs and is also a longstanding carrier of other proliferation-sensitive items.”

What’s next: Pompeo has also threatened to pursue snapback sanctions on Iran at the United Nations unless Russia and China agree to extend the arms embargo on Tehran, which expires in October as the first sunset provision under the 2015 nuclear deal.

Know more: Congressional Correspondent Bryant Harris takes a deep-dive into how Trump’s Iran sanctions regime has impacted humanitarian trade amid the coronavirus pandemic.

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