Washington D.C. (GPA) – In response to an alleged illegal missile test by Iran over the weekend, the Trump administration has introduced new sanctions on 13 individuals and 12 companies who “facilitate Iran’s missile program.”
The US Department of Treasury has announced new sanctions on several individuals and companies today. The sanctioned groups and people are from both inside Iran and from countries including China, Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates.
The Trump administration has said these new sanctions are just the opening shot in what it says will be a continued effort to target Tehran. This is the first move by Trump to “get tough on Iran” since his inauguration on January 20th. The sanctions are also aimed at hampering the ability of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force (IRCG).
The Treasury Department’s acting secretary, John Smith has said the sanctions are legal under the 2016 nuclear deal with Iran and similar to those previously placed on the country under Obama. Smith also said the sanctions were to punish Iran for their “continued support for terrorism and development of its ballistic missile program poses a threat to the region, to our partners worldwide, and to the United States,” and that the US “will continue to actively apply all available tools, including financial sanctions, to address this behavior”.
Shortly before the sanctions were announced, President Trump tweeted a warning to Iran, saying that they were “playing with fire” and “they don’t appreciate how ‘kind’ President Obama was to them. Not me!” Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted an apparent rebuttal about an hour later, saying “We will never use our weapons against anyone, except in self-defense. Let us see if any of those who complain can make the same statement.” Zarif also said earlier this week that “the missile issue is not part of the nuclear deal.”
The exact wording of the sanctions says they are aimed at “several networks and supporters of Iran’s ballistic missile procurement, including a critical Iranian procurement agent and eight individuals and entities in his Iran- and China-based network, an Iranian procurement company and its Gulf-based network, and five individuals and entities that are part of an Iran-based procurement network.”
The sanctions stop these companies and people from using any financial systems within the US and may also lead to companies not on the list being blacklisted by US banks for doing business with them. Some companies didn’t even actually have anything to do with missiles but were just targeted due to ownership by high ranking Iranian officials. For example, some of the companies in Lebanon primarily deal with things like waste collection and pharmaceuticals but were sanctioned due to their owners alleged ties to the IRGC.
One group cheering the sanctions is Saudi Arabia, Iran’s biggest regional adversary. Senior Saudi adviser, Brigadier General Ahmed al Assiri, agreed with the US, telling the BBC that it was time to curb Iran’s bad behaviors in the region.
Assiri’s biggest concern was Iran’s involvement in countries like Syria, Iraq and Yemen. This is despite the fact that Iran was invited to all those countries by their governments, and the Saudis actually support jihadist networks like al Qaeda in Yemen and supplying known terrorists in the “Syrian opposition” with things like chemical weapons components.
As far as Iran is concerned, at least a majority of their financial and military support is above board and in the open. There’s also no reason Iran would think they could get away with launching a nuclear warhead at a country like Israel and not pay dearly for the action. Iran has a right to self defense and this missile test is most likely just that, yet the US is apparently going to continue to double down on their economic warfare to help their Saudi backers.
James Carey is an organizer based in Detroit, Michigan, founder of Geopolitics Alert, and an experienced analyst on Middle Eastern affairs with a particular focus on Turkey. He also covers topics ranging from Latin America and Asia to Europe. You can also hear James in his weekly podcast; The Left is Dead which he co-hosts with investigative journalist Jake Anderson.