Trump hits Iran with new sanc­tions

U.S. re­sponse to mis­sile test will have lit­tle ef­fect and is not tied to nu­clear treaty


The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion or­dered sanc­tions against more than two dozen peo­ple and com­pa­nies from the Per­sian Gulf to China Fri­day, in re­tal­i­a­tion for Iran’s re­cent bal­lis­tic mis­sile test, in­creas­ing pres­sure on Tehran with­out di­rectly un­der­cut­ting a land­mark nu­clear deal with the coun­try.

Those tar­geted by the Trea­sury De­part­ment in­clude Ira­nian, Le­banese, Emi­rati and Chi­nese in­di­vid­u­als and firms in­volved in procur­ing bal­lis­tic mis­sile tech­nol­ogy for Iran. They are now pro­hib­ited from do­ing any busi­ness in the United States or with Amer­i­can cit­i­zens. The over­all im­pact is likely to be min­i­mal on Iran’s econ­omy, though some of the peo­ple and com­pa­nies have re­la­tion­ships with Iran’s hard-line Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Guard mil­i­tary forces.

“The days of turn­ing a blind eye to Iran’s hos­tile and bel­liger­ent ac­tions to­ward the United States and the world com­mu­nity are over,” Michael Flynn, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser, said in a state­ment.

Although White House spokesper­son Sean Spicer ac­knowl­edged that much of the leg­work had oc­curred un­der Pres­i­dent Barack Obama, he told re­porters the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion “acted swiftly and de­ci­sively” af­ter Iran’s re­cent mis­sile test and Ira­nian-backed rebels in Ye­men fir­ing on a Saudi naval ves­sel.

It is Trump’s first pack­age of penal­ties against Iran, re­flect­ing his in­sis­tence on a tougher stance to­ward Tehran. Through­out his elec­tion cam­paign, Trump ac­cused Obama of be­ing weak on Iran, and he vowed to crack down if elected.

Iran ac­knowl­edged it con­ducted a mis­sile test. But it in­sists the test didn’t vi­o­late the 2015 nu­clear ac­cord it reached with the United States and five other world pow­ers, or a sub­se­quent UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil res­o­lu­tion ex­tend­ing an eight-year ban on bal­lis­tic mis­siles “de­signed to be ca­pa­ble of de­liv­er­ing nu­clear weapons.”

Wash­ing­ton, un­der Obama and Trump, and its Western al­lies agree the mat­ter is sep­a­rate from the nu­clear pact, but main­tain the mis­sile tests vi­o­late the UN ban.

Iran’s For­eign Min­istry de­cried the new U.S. sanc­tions on Fri­day as “il­le­git­i­mate.” It vowed counter-sanc­tions on Amer­i­can com­pa­nies and firms.

Iran al­ready has a for­mi­da­ble arse­nal of thou­sands of short- and medium-range bal­lis­tic mis­siles ca­pa­ble of reach­ing Is­rael and other U.S. al­lies in the Mid­dle East, as well as Amer­i­can bases. And it has un­der­taken a se­ries of tests in the year-anda-half since the nu­clear agree­ment.

The U.S. said the lat­est launch was of a medium-range mis­sile, and an Amer­i­can de­fence of­fi­cial de­scribed it as fail­ing reen­try into the Earth’s at­mos­phere.

In a tweet Fri­day morning, Trump wrote, “Iran is play­ing with fire — they don’t ap­pre­ci­ate how ‘kind’ Pres­i­dent Obama was to them. Not me.”

De­spite the tough talk, the new sanc­tions rep­re­sent a con­tin­u­a­tion of the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s lim­ited punishment for Iran’s bal­lis­tic mis­sile ac­tiv­ity and avoid a di­rect show­down with Tehran over the nu­clear deal it­self. The sanc­tion tar­gets were drawn up be­fore Obama left office and don’t af­fect Iran Air, a big Ira­nian bank or any ma­jor gov­ern­ment en­tity, mak­ing it un­clear how ef­fec­tive they’ll prove as de­ter­rents.

None of the new penal­ties re­versed Obama’s sus­pen­sion of sanc­tions un­der the nu­clear pact. Obama him­self promised af­ter the deal to con­tinue go­ing af­ter Iran with non-nu­clear penal­ties in re­sponse to mis­sile launches, ter­ror sup­port or hu­man rights abuses, and did so in Jan­uary and March of last year.

On mis­siles, Iran said it would be un­de­terred. Its For­eign Min­is­ter Javad Zarif tweeted Fri­day that his coun­try was “un­moved by threats as we de­rive se­cu­rity from our peo­ple. We’ll never ini­ti­ate war, but we can only rely on our own means of de­fence.”

“Our mis­sile drills are a show of our might,” added Tehran prayer leader Ay­a­tol­lah Ah­mad Khatami. “We are liv­ing in a world of wolves — wolves such as the ar­ro­gant gov­ern­ment of Amer­ica. In this world of wolves, should we re­main un­armed and they do what­ever damn things they want? No way! This will never hap­pen!”


Don­ald Trump tweeted Fri­day morning, “Iran is play­ing with fire.”

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