Iran next on Trump’s list of tar­gets

Sunday Star-Times - - WORLD -

Aim­ing to show tough ac­tion against Iran, the White House is pre­par­ing a se­ries of mea­sures tar­get­ing its af­fil­i­ates, even as US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump qui­etly steps back from his cam­paign pledge to rip up the Iran nu­clear deal.

New ac­tions to be an­nounced in the com­ing days will fo­cus on Iran’s Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Guard and Hezbol­lah, the Ira­nian-backed Shi’ite mil­i­tant group blamed for sow­ing dis­cord in the Mid­dle East and seek­ing Is­rael’s demise.

The ac­tions in­clude fi­nan­cial sanc­tions on any­one who does busi­ness with the Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Guard, as well as mil­lions of dol­lars in re­wards for in­for­ma­tion lead­ing to the ar­rest of two Hezbol­lah op­er­a­tives.

The mea­sures were de­scribed by two Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials and a per­son fa­mil­iar with the un­fold­ing pol­icy on Iran, on con­di­tion of anonymity.

The moves al­low Trump to show he is not eas­ing the pres­sure against the Is­lamic Repub­lic, even though the nu­clear deal he has long de­rided may live on – at least for the im­me­di­ate fu­ture.

An avowed critic of the 2015 nu­clear agree­ment be­tween Iran and world pow­ers, Trump has called it one of Amer­ica’s ‘‘worst and most one-sided trans­ac­tions’’ ever. Yet White House press sec­re­tary Sarah San­ders said yes­ter­day that the pres­i­dent was look­ing be­yond the deal for ways to pres­sure Tehran.

‘‘He’s look­ing at all of the bad be­hav­iour of Iran – not just the nu­clear deal as bad be­hav­iour, but the bal­lis­tic mis­sile test­ing, desta­bil­is­ing of the re­gion, num­ber one state spon­sor of ter­ror­ism, cy­ber­at­tacks, il­licit nu­clear pro­gramme.’’

The per­son fa­mil­iar with Iran pol­icy said H R McMaster, the pres­i­dent’s na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser, has been the key driver in de­vel­op­ing the in­te­grated strat­egy.

Trump is set to de­liver a speech next week in which he is ex­pected to de­cline to cer­tify Iran’s com­pli­ance with the land­mark 2015 agree­ment to rein in its nu­clear pro­gramme. That would stop short of pulling out of the deal.

Law­mak­ers say Trump isn’t go­ing to im­me­di­ately an­nounce new nu­clear sanc­tions, which are pro­hib­ited by the deal, and in­stead will re­fer the mat­ter to Congress.

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