The United States has announced new sanctions on eight senior Iranian officials and that country's steel and other metals industry, along with a presidential executive order that promises further moves to curb the Iranian leadership's access to revenues.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced the sanctions at a press conference in Washington on January 10, following this week's Iranian missile strikes on bases housing U.S. troops in Iraq. The Iranian attack came days after a top Iranian commander was killed in a U.S. air strike in Iraq.
"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 commits that it will never have nuclear weapons,” Mnuchin said.
Among others, Iranian individuals targeted include: 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 Basij militia of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).
Mnuchin said these officials were advancing "the regime's destabilizing activity and were involved" in the January 8 missile attack.
The sanctions also target 17 mining and metal-producing companies, a “network of three China- and Seychelles-based entities," and a vessel involved in the metals trade.
"As a result of these actions we will cut off billions of dollars of support to the Iranian regime and we will continue our enforcement of other entities,” according to Mnuchin.
Mohsen Rezaee, a senior member of Iran’s influential Expediency Council and a military officer in the IRGC who was also targeted by the January 10 sanctions, tweeted: "Imposing sanctions is symbolic for America and for me because this measure will have no economic impact."
A Treasury Department statement outlining the punitive measures cites an executive order from President Donald Trump "expanding authorities to target additional sources of revenue used by the Iranian regime."
"Concurrently with today’s designations, the President is signing a new Executive Order (E.O.) that targets additional sources of revenue used by the Iranian regime to fund and support its nuclear program, missile development, terrorism and terrorist proxy networks, and malign regional influence," the statement said.
U.S. special representative for Iran Brian Hook said in a telephone call with reporters on January 10 that the U.S. exit from the so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Actions (JCPOA) that traded curbs on Iran's nuclear activities for relief from international sanctions has put Washington "in a much better position to deny Iran a nuclear weapon."
"It allows us to then forcibly respond to Iran's regional aggression, and that is what we have done with our sanctions," he said, according to Reuters.
The latest sanctions target exports that help keep the Iranian economy "on life support," he added.
The new sanctions follow more than a year of tightening U.S. sanctions since Trump left the JCPOA in 2018 and with tensions high following a January 3 U.S. drone strike that killed IRGC Major General Qasem Soleimani in Baghdad, prompting Iran's targeting of two Iraqi bases that house U.S. troops with missiles on January 8.
Pompeo told reporters on January 10 that Soleimani was planning an imminent "large-scale attack against American interests" when he was killed.
He said the United States had "specific information" on threatened attacks against American facilities, "including American embassies, [and] military bases throughout the region."
In an interview on Fox News that partially aired on January 10, Trump said that he thinks Soleimani was planning attacks against four U.S. embassies.
"Probably it was going to be the embassy in Baghdad," he said.
The fresh sanctions also come with U.S., Canadian, and British officials saying evidence suggested that a Ukraine International Airlines (UIA) flight that crashed in Iran hours after the January 8 missile attack had been hit by an Iranian surface-to-air missile, probably in error.
"We do believe that it’s likely that that plane was shot down by an Iranian missile," Pompeo said during the press conference.
"We're going to let the investigation play out before we make a final determination," Pompeo added. "When we get results of that investigation, I am confident we and the world will take appropriate actions in response."
Mnuchin said the Treasury Department would grant sanctions waivers to allow any Americans or anyone else to participate in the investigation of the crash. Under U.S. sanctions law, the U.S. Treasury must grant approval for U.S. nationals or entities to take part in an investigation in Iran and potentially travel there.
Iranian officials have flatly denied as "impossible" that a missile shot down the Boeing 737-800 passenger plane after takeoff from the Iranian capital.