WASHINGTON – The United States announced on Friday new economic sanctions on Iran in response to Tehran’s ballistic missile strikes on two bases in northern and western Iraq housing American troops.
Those attacks on Wednesday came five days after a US drone strike killed the leader of the foreign wing of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Qasem Soleimani; the deputy leader of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces militia organization, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis; and eight others in their convoy near Baghdad’s airport.
The additional sanctions target eight senior Iranian officials and several major industries in that Middle Eastern country.
The sanctions will continue to be applied “until Iran stops its terrorist activities and commit(s) that it will never have nuclear weapons,” US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in an appearance at the White House alongside US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Mnuchin said the new round of sanctions target “any individual owning, operating, trading with or assisting sectors of the Iranian economy, including construction, manufacturing, textiles and mining.”
Furthermore, the US is announcing “17 specific sanctions against Iran’s largest steel and iron manufacturers,” as well as three Seychelles-based entities and a vessel involved in the transfer of products, Mnuchin said, adding that those actions will cut off billions of dollars in support to the Iranian government.
The treasury secretary also said the actions against the eight Iranian officials were justified because they had “advanced the regime’s destabilizing activity and were involved in (the Jan. 8) ballistic missile strike.”
The Treasury Department’s actions include the designations of Ali Shamkhani, the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council; Mohammad Reza Ashtiani, the deputy chief of staff of Iran’s armed forces; and Gholamreza Soleimani, the head of the IRGC’s Basij forces.
Pompeo, for his part, said the eight senior officials who were designated were “responsible for the regime’s violence both abroad and at home” and that the sanctions strike “at the heart of the Islamic Republic’s inner security apparatus.”
“The goal of our campaign is to deny the regime the resources to conduct its destructive foreign policy. We want Iran to simply behave like a normal nation,” he said.
US President Donald Trump had said in a speech two days ago that new sanctions would be imposed in response to the ballistic missile strikes on the Ain al-Asad air base in western Iraq and an air base near Erbil in that country’s north.
Fears of an all-out conflict were heightened after the Jan. 3 Soleimani assassination and the missile strikes, but Trump allayed some of those concerns in his speech on Wednesday.
He defended the killing of Soleimani, saying that US had “eliminated the world’s top terrorist” who had “fueled bloody civil wars all across” the Middle East.
But the president said the missile strikes had caused no casualties and that “Iran appears to be standing down, which is a good thing for all parties concerned and a very good thing for the world.”
The president also referred the Barack Obama-era nuclear deal with Iran that was agreed to by Iran, the European Union, China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, Germany and the US.
Trump withdrew the US from that accord in May 2018 and a few months later fully reinstated sanctions on its oil, banking and other sectors that had been in place prior to the deal.
On Wednesday, he urged the UK, Germany, France, Russia and China to “break away from the remnants” of that agreement, which “expires shortly anyway.”
He called for a new deal to be hammered out, while also holding out an olive branch to Iran.
“We must all work together toward making a deal with Iran that makes the world a safer and more peaceful place. We must also make a deal that allows Iran to thrive and prosper and take advantage of its enormous untapped potential. Iran can be a great country,” Trump said.