American President Donald Trump on Monday signed a new executive order imposing new US sanctions on Iran in response to its recent moves.
Trump told reporters that Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was ultimately responsible for what he called “the hostile conduct of the regime” in the Middle East.
The new sanctions take aim at Khamenei and some of his affiliates, including eight senior commanders of Navy, Aerospace, and Ground Forces of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), blocking them from using US financial systems or gain access to assets in the US.
US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif will be added to the sanctions list “later this week.”
To counteract this, Zarif took to Twitter and said the Trump administration, particularly National Security Adviser John Bolton, were more interested in war than diplomacy.
The US move came following two attacks, the downing of an unmanned US surveillance drone last week and striking tankers in the Gulf two weeks ago.
The Iranian regime said the drone was flying over its airspace and denied the latter.
Last week, Trump said he halted a retaliatory air attack on Iranian military targets at the last minute with the worry of possibly killing many people.
Instead, the US launched cyber attacks in a claim that said was to disable Iranian rocket launch systems.
Iran’s Minister for Information and Communications Technology, Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi, said the US cyber strikes were unsuccessful. The US officials declined to comment.
Besides sanctions and cyber attacks, Washington was also establishing a coalition with its unidentified allies to protect Gulf shipping lanes, according to a report on Monday, citing an unnamed US official from the US State Department. The US blames Iran for encouraging allies in Yemen to attack US-ally Saudi targets.
On Monday, to build a ‘global coalition’ against Iran, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reportedly traveled to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The three, together with the UK, expressed concern in a joint statement over the dangers posed by Iran’s “destabilizing activity” to peace and security in Yemen and the region.
Brian Hook, US Special Representative for Iran, reportedly visited Oman and was later headed to Europe to explain the US policy to its allies.
“We call on the regime to abandon its nuclear ambitions, change its destructive behavior, respect the rights of its people, and return in good faith to the negotiating table,” Trump said in a statement released along with the executive order.
Last year May, Trump unilaterally withdrew from a 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, arguing that it, known as the JCPOA which was negotiated under Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama, did not go far enough. The president announced a list of 12 demands to be met by the Iranian regime before the US lifts punishing sanctions against it.
The demands list includes the restriction of the Iranian nuclear program beyond the point it had accepted during the 2015 accord with the US, putting an end to Iranian ballistic missile program and the release of US citizens imprisoned in Iran.
Later in November, the Trump administration re-imposed wide-ranging sanctions on Iran, with granting waivers to eight countries. With six-month waivers, until May 2019, those eight countries could continue importing limited quantities of crude oil from Iran in a bid to give them more time to find alternative energy sources and to prevent a shock to global oil markets from a sudden removal of Iranian oil.
The rest of the signatories of the nuclear deal – Germany, the UK, France, Russia, and China – view Trump’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal as a mistake. They try to ease the crisis by helping Iran circumvent the US sanctions.
They fear a small mistake by either side could cause war.
“We are very concerned. We don’t think either side wants a war, but we are very concerned we could get into an accidental war and we are doing everything we can to ratchet things down,” said Jeremy Hunt, British Foreign Secretary.
Iran set a deadline of July 7 for the five powers to deliver a solution, otherwise, it would withdraw from parts of the deal and begin enriching uranium at a higher level.
Germany, France, and Britain have sent an official diplomatic warning to Iran if it reduces its compliance with the deal, according to a report by Reuters on Monday, citing two unnamed European diplomats.
The report did not mention what consequences Iran might face in case of non-compliance.
“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,” Trump said on Monday.