Key Points

The importers of Iranian petrochemicals continue to include both U.S. allies as well as rivals. Countries that share a land border with Iran – including Turkey, Pakistan, Iraq, and Afghanistan – remain among its best customers; so do two Persian Gulf states – the UAE and Oman – that share maritime borders. This geographical proximity means that Tehran could easily smuggle payments back home in the form of either foreign currency or precious metals. Curbing Iran’s petrochemical exports will require intense negotiation with countries that are prepared to find new suppliers. An aggressive use of sanctions and other punitive measures may be needed for those who refuse to comply.

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The Trump administration has not shied away from aggressive diplomacy to go after Mahan Air. It should redouble its efforts now to ensure that Tehran’s attempt to offer a lifeline to the Maduro regime fails completely.

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Finally, the U.S. should seek agreement with China but be prepared to wield sanctions and other punitive measures. Telecom giant Huawei is already facing federal charges for violating sanctions on Iran and then destroying evidence of it. The president should be wary of hollow promises from Beijing that entail no meaningful change in its behavior.

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For now, Mahan remains active in Italy, Spain, Bulgaria, the United Arab Emirates, and other U.S. partner states. Using its approach to Germany and France as a playbook, the Trump administration should initiate a similar campaign of sanctions and diplomacy to push Mahan Air out of those jurisdictions.

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Projects