Washington: The United States says it has established a link between the Iran's state oil company to the country's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, a charge that enables Washington to apply fresh sanctions on the company.
The US Department of Treasury said in a statement, yesterday, that it has determined that the National Iranian Oil Company is "an agent or affiliate" of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
The Treasury said that its determination that NIOC is an agent or affiliate of the IRGC requires the imposition of sanctions on foreign persons determined to have knowingly provided certain material support to, or engaged in significant transactions with, the IRGC or its officials, agents, or affiliates whose property or interest in property is blocked.
The National Iranian Oil Company, owned by the Government of Iran through the Ministry of Petroleum, is responsible for the exploration, production, refining, and export of oil and petroleum products in Iran.
NIOC was already subject to US sanctions for being part of Iranian government, but that only gave the US the power to slap sanctions on Americans companies doing business with it.
According to the Treasury, IRGC is Iran's most powerful economic actor, dominating many sectors of the economy, including energy, construction, and banking. The IRGC has a history of attempting to circumvent sanctions by maintaining a complex network of front companies, it said.
"The IRGC and certain IRGC-related entities and individuals have been sanctioned for activities related to Iran's nuclear program, support for terrorism, commission of serious human rights abuses, and most recently for activities related to human rights abuses in Syria, including repression against the Syrian people," the Treasury said.
Recently, the IRGC has been coordinating a campaign to sell Iranian oil in an effort to evade international sanctions, specifically those imposed by the European Union that prohibit the import, shipping, and purchase of Iranian oil, which went into full effect on July 1, the Treasury said.
The Treasury said under the current Iranian regime, the IRGC's influence has grown within NIOC. For instance, on August 3, 2011, Iran's parliament approved the appointment of Rostam Qasemi, a Brigadier General in the IRGC, as Minister of Petroleum.
Prior to his appointment, Qasemi was the commander of Khatam Al-Anbia, a construction and development wing of the IRGC that generates income and funds operations for the IRGC.
Even in his new role as Minister of Petroleum, Qasemi has publicly stated his allegiance to the IRGC.]
As the IRGC has become increasingly influential in Iran's energy sector, Khatam Al-Anbia has obtained billions of dollars worth of contracts with Iranian energy companies, including NIOC, often without participating in a competitive bidding process, the Treasury alleged.