The Biden administration announced on Thursday it would be imposing sanctions on a prominent Turkish businessman reportedly close to Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for violations of US restrictions on the sales of Iranian oil, The Associated Press reported.
The Treasury Department announced it was penalizing Sitki Ayan and a number of companies he and his family and associates control for facilitating the sale of hundreds of millions of dollars of Iranian oil for Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, according to the report.
Ayan and his firms have also laundered the proceeds of those sales for both the Guard and Lebanon's Hezbollah movement, both of which are designated as “foreign terrorist organizations” by the US, Treasury said.
The sanctions include a freeze on any assets Ayan or the targeted companies may have in US jurisdictions and bar Americans from doing any business with them.
The statement said that Ayan, his son, Bahaddin, and three associates had organized sales of Iranian oil in violation of US sanctions for China, other east Asian nations, the United Arab Emirates and some customers in Europe through Ayan's Gibralter-based ASB Group of Companies Limited holding group.
In September, the US 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.
US sanctions on Iran have accelerated in recent months, as administration officials tried to bring Tehran back to negotiations for a return to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. Those talks have been stalled for several months.
Iran in September 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 said the Iranian response "is not at all encouraging.”
A US official later said that the 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.
More recently, the US envoy for Iran, Robert Malley, said that Iran's crackdown on protesters and the sale of drones to Russia have turned the United States' focus away from reviving the nuclear deal.