President Donald Trump on Monday signed an executive order with new ‘hard-hitting’ sanctions on Iran directly targeted at Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei after what he called a ‘series of aggressive behaviors’ by the regime.
He said the ayatollah’s own finances would now be in U.S. crosshairs as he stepped up the rhetoric against Iran, after standing down U.S. airstrikes minutes before planes were due to take to the air on Thursday night.
‘I’ll be signing an executive order imposing hard-hitting sanctions on the supreme leader of Iran on the office of the supreme leader of Iran and many others. Today’s action follows a series of aggressive behaviors by the Iranian regime in recent weeks, including shooting down of U.S. drones,’ he said in the Oval Office.
‘We do not seek conflict with Iran or any other country,’ he added.
‘I think a lot of restraint has been shown by us – a lot of restraint – and that doesn’t mean we’re going to show it in the future. But, I felt that we want to give this a chance, give it a good chance, because I think Iran potentially has a phenomenal future.’
President Donald Trump on Monday signed an executive order with new ‘hard-hitting’ sanctions on Iran
The sanctions specifically target Supreme Leader of Iran, Ali Khamenei
The president indicated the new sanctions were, in part, as a result of Iran’s downing of a U.S. drone over the Strait of Hormuz last week.
‘You could probably add that into this,’ he said but added: “This is something that was going to happen anyway.”
Trump’s move comes after renewed tensions between Washington and Tehran in the wake of the drone shoot down and an attack on two commercial tankers near the Strait of Hormuz on June 13.
The U.S. blamed that attack on Iran, which has denied involvement.
‘We will continue to increase pressure on Tehran,’ Trump said.
And Trump on Monday called the actions by Iran ‘not good and not appropriate’ and specifically targeted Ali Khamenei, the Supreme Leader of Iran.
‘The Supreme Leader of Iran is one who ultimately is responsible for the hostile conduct of the regime. He is respected within his country. His office oversees the regime’s most brutal instruments.’
Trump said his executive order ‘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.’
He said his message for Khamenei is to change the path he is on.
‘My only message is he has the potential to have a great country and quickly. Very quickly. I think they should do that than going along this destructive path. Destructive for everybody. It’s destructive for everybody. We can’t let them have a nuclear weapon. He says he doesn’t want nuclear weapons. It’s a great thing to say. A lot of things has been said over the years and it turns out not so. He said he does not want to have nuclear weapons. If that itself the case, we can do something very quickly,’ the president said.
Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin told reporters that the administration will ‘lock up literally billion dollars in assets.’
‘Now along with our existing sanctions authority, we have additional sanctions to go after the supreme leaders’ office and lock up literally billions of dollars more of assets,’ he said in the White House briefing room after he left the Oval Office, where he had watched Trump sign the new sanctions order.
‘These sanctions are highly, highly-effective in locking up the Iranian economy,’ he said.
Mnuchin said the order was in the works before last week’s downing by Iran of a U.S. military surveillance drone and he also indicted it was in response to that as well as to previous Iranian actions in the Gulf, including attack on the oil tankers.
Mnuchin wouldn’t comment on whether military options are on the table.
The United States pulled out of a 2015 nuclear deal that world powers signed with Iran but has applied crushing sanctions on the Islamic nation.
Last year, the U.S. aimed to cut off all revenue from Iran’s oil export – the money that keeps the country running. The goal was regime change in Tehran.
Iranian oil exports have fallen from 1.5 million barrels per day in October 2018 to 750,000 in April, according to Bloomberg News.
Mnuchin said he would attend this week’s G20 meeting with the president in Japan to discuss the issue with U.S. allies.
‘I have not consulted on these specific sanctions. The answer is, in general, I have had many, many conversations with all our allies. I was in Japan ten days ago meeting with the finance ministers and discussed our sanctions program. I will be going to the G-20 with the president. Again, this will continue to be a topic of discussion,’ he said.
Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin told reporters that the administration will ‘lock up literally billion dollars in assets’ of Iran’s
President Donald Trump signs an executive order imposing fresh sanctions on Iran as Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Vice President Mike Pence look on
A RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned air drone
‘Our issue is not with the people of Iran. So I just want to be very clear. We are not looking at creating issues for the people of Iran. Having said that, we have sanctions against bad behavior. There is no question locking this money up worked last time, there is no question locking the money works now,’ Mnuchin said.
The president also warned Tehran it can never have a nuclear weapon.
‘We cannot ever let Iran have a nuclear weapon and it won’t happen and secondly, and very importantly, we don’t want money going out to sponsor terror. They are the number one sponsor of terror in the world. So I’ll sign this order right now,’ Trump said.
The downing of the drone prompted some administration officials – including National Security Adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pomeo – to push for a missile attack in retaliation.
There were reports such an attack was in the works before Trump canceled it.
But the president said last week he had not given the final go ahead for an Iranian attack when he called off a strike on Thursday night.
He told NBC’s Chuck Todd the planes were still on the ground when he called the whole thing off.
‘Nothing is greenlighted until the very end, because things change,’ Trump said in an interview for NBC’s ‘Meet the Press.’ ‘We had something ready to go, subject to my approval.’
‘No, were about ready to go. No, but they would have been pretty soon,’ he said. ‘And things would have happened to a point where we wouldn’t turn back, couldn’t turn back.’
President Trump says that he had not given the final go ahead for an Iranian attack when he called off a strike last week
He said he asked how many people would be killed. ‘Approximately 150,’ the unidentified general told him.
Trump said the number gave him pause, considering Iran shot down an unmanned drone.
‘And here we are sitting with 150 people dead people that would have taken place, probably within a half hour, after I said go ahead. And I didn’t like it. I didn’t think it was proportionate,’ he said.
Tehran had claimed earlier in that day last eek that it had ‘indisputable’ evidence the drone violated its airspace.
But the U.S. said the drone was shot down 21 miles off the Iranian coast, in the Strait of Hormuz.
Pentagon video footage showed a smoke trail from the $180 million surveillance aircraft following a missile strike on the drone it says was flying over international waters.
The drone shoot down came after U.S. Central Command released a video claiming to show Iran removing a mine from one of the oil tankers hit by an explosion in the Gulf of Yemen.
Washington accused Iran of causing the two blasts, which left one of the vessels burning in a fireball and sparked a fresh exchange of angry rhetoric in an already tense Middle East standoff.
How the claims differ: Iran and the U.S. differ on where the drone was when it was targeted
An oil tanker was pictured on fire in the sea of Oman near the strategic Strait of Hormuz after an attack that left it ablaze and adrift while sailors were evacuated
The footage published by the U.S. military purports to show Iranian vessels returning to the stricken Japanese-owned tanker Kokuta Courageous and removing an unexploded limpet mine.
Iran claimed it had sent a search and rescue team to bring the Kokuta’s crew to safety, but Washington D.C. argues their real intention was to hide Iranian involvement in the blasts.
Tehran dismissed the U.S. claims, calling them ‘baseless’ and accusing America of ‘sabotage diplomacy’ and ‘Iranophobia.’
The shipping firms affected are continuing their investigations amid claims that one of the crews saw a ‘flying object’ before an explosion on board.
The explosions, which forced 44 sailors on the Kokuta and the Norwegian-owned MT Front Altair to abandon ship, have also sparked fears over the world oil supply after four tankers were targeted in similar blasts last month.
Trump, at the time, accused Iran of attacking the oil tankers and warned Tehran that he doesn’t take the aggressive move lightly.
‘Iran did do it,’ Trump said on ‘Fox & Friends’ when during a phone interview with the morning cable news show.
He advised Iran’s mullahs that the U.S. could see evidence of the attack, citing grainy video footage released by the U.S. military that they claimed shows Iranian vessels retrieving an unexploded mine from one of the damaged ships.
‘You saw the boat, one to have mines didn’t explode and it has Iran written all over it. Successfully took the mine off the boat and that was exposed. They didn’t want the evidence left behind. They don’t know that we have things that we can detect in the dark that work very well. We have that. It was them that did it,’ Trump said.