The U.S. Treasury Department on Monday imposed a new round of sanctions against Iran's energy sector, this time against the oil minister and a dozen subsidiaries, which it accuses of supporting "terrorist entities" in its latest attempt to put pressure on Tehran.
"The Iranian regime continues to prioritize its support for terrorist entities and its nuclear program over the needs of the Iranian people," Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.
Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh, the Iranian National Oil Company (NIOC), the Iranian National Oil Carrier Company (NITC) and others are also targeted by the sanctions.
With this new round of sanctions, the Trump administration is already stepping up its intense pressure on Iran in the run-up to the November 3 elections, in part to ensure that a possible Biden administration will have more difficulty easing sanctions.
In a tweet, Zanganeh rejected these measures as a sign that President Donald Trump's efforts to eliminate Iran's oil exports had failed and said they would not cripple the country's oil industry. He said he had no assets outside Iran and was unsure whether the designation would affect his participation in future OPEC meetings in Vienna.
Just a few weeks ago, US sanctions came into force against more than 20 individuals and entities involved in Iran's nuclear, missile and conventional weapons programmes, according to a senior US official.
This decision was taken unilaterally by the Trump administration and conflicts with the nuclear agreement signed in 2015 by the United Nations, from which Trump withdrew in 2018.
In 2007, the United Nations imposed a formal arms embargo on the Iranian theocracy against a backdrop of growing tensions over the country's nuclear programme.
Tehran's response was to suspend its cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and to continue its nuclear programme despite UN "intimidation".
UN sanctions have been coupled with EU trade restrictions. All this has aggravated the economic crisis that was already affecting the regime.
But in 2015, a landmark nuclear deal was reached between Iran and six world powers - the US, Russia, China, the UK, France and Germany. The agreement was signed after more than two years of negotiations. Known as the Joint Comprehensive Action Plan (JCPOA), it was considered a milestone in the foreign policy of then US President Barak Obama.
The pact provided for the lifting of economic sanctions against Tehran in exchange for a limitation of its atomic energy programme by Tehran. This programme had raised some concern among international powers about its possible use in a hypothetical nuclear power plant.
A few weeks ago, Iranian President Hassan Rohani congratulated the population on the lifting on 18 October of the "oppressive embargo" on conventional arms imposed in 2007 by the UN Security Council, "despite four years of US efforts" to prevent it.