Iran sanctions
Iran sanctions iStock

The US on Thursday imposed sanctions on a group of firms it said have played a critical role in shipping sanctioned Iranian oil.

The State Department designated two Chinese companies, and Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control hit a network of companies based in Hong Kong, Iran, India and the United Arab Emirates, reported The Associated Press.

US sanctions on Iran have accelerated in recent months, as administration officials try to bring Tehran back to negotiations for a return to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

“So long as Iran refuses a mutual return to full implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the United States will continue to enforce its sanctions on the sale of Iranian petroleum and petrochemical products," said Treasury Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian Nelson.

Iran and the United States have been holding indirect talks on a return to the 2015 agreement, from which former President Donald Trump withdrew in 2018, but those talks have hit a snag in recent weeks.

Iran recently announced it had submitted its comments to the US response to the European Union’s draft for reviving the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

While Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson said at the time that Iran’s response was prepared based on a constructive approach, a senior Biden administration official told Politico, “We are studying Iran’s response, but the bottom line is that it is not at all encouraging.”

A senior European official directly involved in nuclear talks with Iran later told Axios’ Barak Ravid that Iran’s latest response to the EU’s proposal is unreasonable and indicates that the Iranians are not interested in closing a deal.

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said recently that Iran's position in the negotiations has not been changed, claiming that "the only obstacle to an agreement is the lack of realism and necessary determination on the part of America."

A US official told reporters last week that efforts to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal have hit a wall because of Iran's insistence on the closure of the UN nuclear watchdog's investigations.

"We've hit a wall" because of Iran's stance, the US official told reporters on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.