- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 25, 2019

NEW YORK — The U.S. government is leveling new sanctions against Chinese companies evading the Trump administration-led embargo on Iranian crude oil, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Wednesday in a speech on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.

“Today we are imposing sanctions on certain Chinese entities for knowingly transporting oil from Iran contrary to United States sanctions,” Mr. Pompeo said at an event hosted by United Against Nuclear Iran, a bipartisan advocacy group focused on stopping the Islamic republic from acquiring nuclear weapons.

Treasury Department officials quickly followed the announcement by publishing a list Wednesday of six separate Chinese shipping and oil tanker firms being hit by sanctions, as well as five Chinese individuals who have been added to the department’s “Specially Designated Nationals” list.

The designations mean all assets that the companies and individuals may have in the United States — or tied to U.S.-based banking institutions — could be seized by U.S. officials.

Mr. Pompeo described the individuals listed as “executive officers” of the companies being sanctioned.

“We are telling China and all nations: Know that we will sanction every violation of sanctionable activity,” the secretary of state said.

The announcement came ahead of a speech Iranian President Hassan Rouhani delivered to the U.N. General Assembly Wednesday. It also came a day after President Trump suggested in his own U.N. speech that he was preparing to increase pressure on Iran in the wake of the Sept. 14 attacks against Saudi oil infrastructure — attacks that U.S., Saudi and European officials all have blamed on Iran.

The Trump administration began ramping up economic pressure against Iran and companies doing business with the Islamic pressure last year after pulling the United States out of the 2015 Iranian nuclear accord.

The embargo on Iranian crude oil has been at the center of the effort. But some in the U.S. national security community have argued the effort is pointless unless Washington goes after Chinese firms believed to be avoiding the embargo and getting away with it.

The administration responded to that criticism in July by announcing sanctions against the Chinese state-run energy company Zhuhai Zhenrong Co Ltd. At the time, administration officials said Zhuhai Zhenrong’s chief executive officer was also banned from entering the United States.

The list published Wednesday by the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) was significantly wider in scope.

• Guy Taylor can be reached at gtaylor@washingtontimes.com.

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