US president Donald Trump targeted Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and other senior Iranian officials with new US sanctions on Monday, looking for a fresh blow to Iran’s economy after Tehran’s downing of an unmanned American drone.
With tensions running high between the two countries, Trump signed an executive order imposing the sanctions, which US treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin said would lock billions of dollars more in Iranian assets.
Trump told reporters that the sanctions were in part a response to last week’s downing of a US drone by Iran, but would have happened anyway. He said Khamenei was ultimately responsible for what Trump called ‘the hostile conduct of the regime’ in the Middle East.
‘Sanctions imposed through the executive order ... will deny the supreme leader and the supreme leader’s office, and those closely affiliated with him and the office, access to key financial resources and support,’ Trump said.
The sanctions are aimed at denying Iran’s leadership access to financial resources, blocking them from using the United States financial system or having access to any assets in the United States.
‘Anybody who conducts significant transactions with these sanctioned individuals may be exposed to sanctions themselves,’ the White House said.
Some policy analysts say that earlier sanctions issued under Trump’s ‘maximum pressure’ campaign are why Iran has felt compelled to adopt more aggressive tactics as its economy feels the crunch. The Trump administration wants to force Tehran to open talks on its nuclear and missile programmes and its activities in the region.
Tensions between the United States and Iran have grown since May when Washington ordered all countries to halt imports of Iranian oil. Iran says it will not be forced to the negotiating table.
‘We call on the regime to abandon its nuclear ambitions, change its destructive behaviour, respect the rights of its people, and return in good faith to the negotiating table,’ Trump said in a statement issued along with the text of the executive order.
Iranian authorities contacted by Reuters were not immediately available to comment on Trump’s announcement.
Iran’s hardline semi-official Tasnim and Fars news agencies said the sanctions imposed on Tehran were based on ‘fabricated excuses.’
Mnuchin said Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif would be targeted with US sanctions later this week.
Sanctions were also imposed on eight senior commanders of Navy, Aerospace, and Ground Forces of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, the US treasury department said.
‘These commanders sit atop a bureaucracy that supervises the IRGC’s malicious regional activities, including its provocative ballistic missile program, harassment and sabotage of commercial vessels in international waters, and its destabilizing presence in Syria,’ the department said in a statement.
Trump said the sanctions are a ‘strong and proportionate response to Iran’s increasingly provocative actions.’
‘We will continue to increase pressure on Tehran until the regime abandons its dangerous activities and its aspirations,’ he said.
In a joint statement on Monday, the United States, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Britain expressed concern over Middle East tensions and the dangers posed by Iranian ‘destabilising activity’ to peace and security in Yemen and the region.
France, Britain and Germany have sent an official diplomatic warning to Iran if Tehran reduces its compliance with the accord, two European diplomats said on Monday.
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