Trump imposes new, ‘hard-hitting’ sanctions on Iran amid tensions

US President Donald Trump targeted Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and other senior Iranian officials with new US sanctions on Monday (June 24), looking for a fresh blow to Iran’s economy after Teheran’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 said the new sanctions were in part a response to last week’s downing of a US drone, but would have happened anyway.

He said the Supreme Leader was ultimately responsible for what Trump called “the hostile conduct of the regime”.

“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 Trump administration wants to force Teheran 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.

There was no immediate reaction in Iranian official media but at the weekend, state-run news agency IRIB quoted Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi as saying any new sanctions would be “just propaganda” and “there are no more sanctions left.” 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 (IRGC), 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 destabilising 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 Teheran until the regime abandons its dangerous activities and its aspirations,” he said.

Iran said on Monday US cyber attacks on its military had failed, as Washington sought to rally support in the Middle East and Europe for a hardline stance that has brought it to the verge of conflict with its longtime foe.

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