Trump administration hits Iran with economic, diplomatic sanctions after missile attack

The Trump administration on Friday announced additional sanctions on the Iranian regime, days after Tehran launched ballistic missiles at U.S. targets in Iraq -- as part of an ongoing effort to choke Iran’s economy and end their “destructive foreign policy.”

“The goal of our campaign is to deny the regime the resources to conduct its destructive foreign policy,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, announcing the sanctions alongside Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, told reporters in the White House. “We want Iran to simply behave like a normal nation and we believe the sanctions that we impose today further that strategic objective.”

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Authorized by presidential executive order, the administration is imposing additional sanctions against any individual owning, operating in or trading with certain sectors of the Iranian economy including manufacturing, textiles and mining. Additionally, the U.S. is imposing 17 sanctions against Iran’s top steel and iron manufacturers, as well as three entities in the Seychelles and a transport vessel.

It is also imposing sanctions on eight senior leaders of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s office who were involved in the recent missile strike. Pompeo said those sanctions include the secretary of the Supreme National Council and the commander of the Basij Forces, which is known as the regime’s “brute” squad responsible for the deaths of approximately 1,500 anti-regime protesters.

"Today's sanctions are part of our commitment to stop the Iranian regime's global terrorist activities. The president has been very clear we will continue to apply economic sanctions until Iran stops its terrorist activities and commit that it will never have nuclear weapons,” Mnuchin said.

Trump had previewed the sanctions the morning after the launch of more than a dozen ballistic missiles against the Iraq bases earlier this week. Tehran said the attack was in retaliation for the U.S. strike that took out Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani last week. The U.S. has repeatedly said that that strike was an act of self-defense to prevent what it has described as an “imminent threat” against U.S. interests and troops.

Pompeo was grilled on the specifics of that threat Friday as reporters quizzed him on what he meant by “imminent.”

“We had specific information on an imminent threat and that threat stream included attacks on U.S. embassies. Period. Full stop,” he said. When later asked what he meant by imminent, he responded: “It was going to happen.”

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The sanctions are the latest in a cavalcade of diplomatic and economic sanctions slapped on Tehran since the U.S. withdrawal from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, or Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPoA), in 2018. The U.S. has since imposed sanctions on everything from finances to oil, as well as top officials, and in September sanctioned Iran’s national bank after an attack on Saudi oil facilities.

Pompeo said that the sanctions are working and contrasted its efforts with those of the Obama administration as it sought to normalize Iran relations.

“Sadly, the previous administration had opened up revenue streams for Iran, under our administration oil revenues are down by 80 percent and Iran cannot access roughly 90 percent of its foreign currency reserves,” he said.

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He claimed that is now forcing Iran to make decisions as to which terrorist groups it now funds.

“Do you underwrite Hezbollah, do you pick Hamas? Do you underwrite the Shia militias in Iraq or do you allow your people to have the opportunity to live the lives they want and grow your economy?” he said. “Those are the difficult choices the regime is facing.”