Iran crisis: Trump administration imposes new sanctions on Tehran

Eight senior officials targeted in economic retaliation to cut off 'billions' to country

Andrew Feinberg,Alex Woodward
Friday 10 January 2020 11:57 GMT
US announces new sanctions against Iran

US officials have announced new sanctions against Iran which are expected to target senior officials in the region, following recent airstrikes against US troops in Iraq in retaliation for the killing of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said on Friday that the US would impose new sanctions on anyone doing business with industries representing a significant portion of Iran's economy.

Donald Trump will sign an executive order authorizing new sanctions “against any individual owning, operating, trading with or assisting sectors of the Iranian economy, including construction, manufacturing, textiles, and mining” or any other sector which Mr Mnuchin or Mr Pompeo might designate in the future.

The president said the sanctions will remain in place "until the Iranian regime changes its behaviour. The United States is ready to embrace peace with all who seek it."

Additionally, Mr Mnuchin said the US would also level 17 specific sanctions against Iran's largest steel and iron manufacturers, three entries based in the Seychells, and "a vessel involved in the transfer of products". The sanctions are expected to cut off "billions of dollars" to the country, Mr Mnuchin said.

Mr Pompeo added that sanctions would be levelled against eight other individuals to strike "at the heart of the Islamic Republic's inner security apparatus", including the secretary of Iran's supreme national council, the head of Iran's Basij forces, and other individuals "close to" Iran's supreme leader, Ali Khamenei.

"The goal of our campaign is to deny the regime the resources to conduct its destructive foreign policy," said Mr Pompeo, adding that the US wants Iran "to act like a normal nation" and blaming the previous Obama administration for allowing Iran access to funds under the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action anti-proliferation agreement.

When asked how the regiment of sanctions the Trump administration has imposed over the past few years — which have touched off a cycle of escalations as Iran has responded through proxies and the US has imposed more sanctions — has contributed to keeping the US safe, Mr Mnuchin replied that "we have 100 per cent confidence...that the economic sanctions are working".

"If we didn't have those sanctions in place...Iran would have tens of billions of dollars" which they could use for "terrorist activities throughout the region", he said before also blaming the Obama administration for allowing Iran access to its own money under the nuclear agreement.

Following the killing of General Soleimani, Mr Trump appeared to suggest there was an imminent threat against US embassies. But Mr Pompeo said the threat was against US troops, though he couldn't say where or when those attacks would take place.

At a press conference on Friday, Mr Pompeo said the statements are "consistent" and defined imminent as "this is gonna happen".

He said the US "had specific information on an imminent threat and those threat streams included attacks on US embassies. Period. Full stop."

The Trump administration's insistence on the accuracy of intelligence agencies' findings is a marked departure from the first three years of Mr Trump's presidency, during which his relationship with the US intelligence community has been strained at best and contemptuous at worst.

When speaking to reporters about his plan to nominate Texas congressman John Ratcliffe to replace Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats — with whom he'd clashed over Mr Coats willingness to contradict Mr Trump in public — the president responded that the US intelligence community had "run amok" and needed "strong" leadership to "rein it in".

Asked why Americans should believe the information from the same agencies Mr Trump compared to the Third Reich shortly before taking office, Mr Pompeo said he'd watched the president "rely on the capable men and women who are delivering exquisite information to the executive branch" during his time running the CIA and vouched for the accuracy of the findings supporting Mr Trump's decision to strike last week.

The new sanctions are likely to continue escalating tension between the two countries, following the Trump administration's withdrawal from a 2015 deal to curb the country's nuclear capabilities. The US already has reinstated sanctions frozen by the previous deal, which have dealt a significant blow to Iran's economy and cut its oil exports to a record low.

During a Tuesday address, Mr Trump said Iran appears to be "standing down" following increased pressure from the US.

Following a parliamentary vote demanding the US leave the country, Iraq's prime minister urged the administration to begin the process of troop withdrawal to effectively end the US military's presence in the region as hostilities continue between the US and Iran.

Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi reportedly told Secretary Pompeo on Thursday that recent US airstrikes in Iraq violated Iraqi sovereignty.

According to a statement, the prime minister pressed the secretary to "send delegates to Iraq to prepare a mechanism to carry out the parliament's resolution regarding the withdrawal of foreign troops from Iraq".

But a Friday statement from State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus suggested the US is unequivocally remaining in Iraq, and that any delegation sent to the country "would be dedicated to discussing how best to recommit to our strategic partnership" to combat ISIS in the region, "not to discuss troop withdrawal, but our right, appropriate force posture in the Middle East".

Mr Pompeo met with a Nato delegation to discuss increasing "Nato's role" in the area, while the US plans to keep its more than 5,000 troops in the country, effectively increasing foreign military presence.

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