US President Donald Trump targeted Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and other top Iranian officials with sanctions on Monday, stepping up pressure after Tehran’s downing of an unmanned American drone, Reuters reports.
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 told reporters the sanctions were in part a response to last week’s downing of a US drone by Iran, but would have happened anyway.
He said Khamenei was ultimately responsible for what Trump called “the hostile conduct of the regime” in the Middle East.
The sanctions “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.
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 destabilizing 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.”
Iran, meanwhile, said it will not accept talks with the United States while it is under the threat of sanctions.
The US decision is another indication that it “has no respect for international law and order,” Reuters quoted Iranian ambassador to the United Nations, Majid Takht Ravanchi, as saying.
The UN Security Council met behind closed doors on Monday at the request of the US, whose acting ambassador Jonathan Cohen said evidence showed Iran was to blame for attacks on commercial tankers in the Gulf in May and June.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, responding to the sanctions in a Twitter post, said hawkish politicians close to Trump “despise diplomacy, and thirst for war.”
Last year, Trump withdrew the US from a 2015 international accord to restrict Tehran’s pathway to a nuclear bomb and has since been ramping up sanctions to throttle the Iranian economy.
The latest sanctions are aimed at denying Iran’s leadership access to financial resources, blocking them from using the US financial system or having access to any assets in the United States.
“Anybody who conducts significant transactions with these sanctioned individuals may be exposed to sanctions themselves,” the White House said.
The confrontation between Iran and the United States heated up last Thursday when Iran shot down an American drone, saying it had flown over its air space.
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