Iran bashes US move on NIOC

by on September 25, 2012 12:07 pm GMT

In an effort to avoid further damage to its staple
hydrocarbons industry, Iran hit back on Tuesday, denying any link between the
Guards and the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC).

In a reported submitted to US Congress on Monday, the
Treasury Department claimed that “NIOC is an agent or affiliate of Iran’s IRGC”.

It continued: “The IRGC is Iran’s most powerful economic
actor, dominating many sectors of the economy, including energy, construction,
and banking.”

It said it “has a history of attempting to circumvent
sanctions by maintaining a complex network of front companies”. 

“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,” it said.

The Treasury claimed that the IRGC has recently been stepping
up its influence over NIOC by “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”.

Under the US Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights
Act of 2012, NIOC has now been branded a “person” and, as such, subject to
further sanctions.

“This means that foreign financial institutions determined
to knowingly facilitate significant transactions or provide significant
financial services for NIOC will be subject to [Comprehensive Iran Sanctions,
Accountability, and Divestment Act of 2010] CISADA sanctions, including the
prohibition or the imposition of strict conditions on the opening or
maintaining of correspondent or payable-through accounts in the US.”

NIOC is owned by the Iranian government through the Ministry
of Petroleum.

On Tuesday, press reports claimed that a Ministry
spokesperson denied the claims.

The Treasury also said on Monday, however, that there is
currently “insufficient information to determine whether the [national
tanker-owning company] NITC is an agent or affiliate of the IRGC”.

NITC is a significant asset for the Iranian government in
the export of oil. However, the company has recently been struggling to trade
successfully as flag states and international insurance companies have
withdrawn coverage.