WASHINGTON — The Trump administration imposed fresh sanctions on multiple Iranian entities and individuals on Friday after Tehran recently defied a United Nations Security Council resolution by testing a ballistic missile, the Treasury Department announced Friday.
The new sanctions mark President Donald Trump’s first official action against Iran since taking office last month, a move likely to escalate tensions between the countries a little more than a year after implementation of the nuclear deal that lifted crippling oil and financial sanctions on Iran in exchange for rolling back its nuclear program.
Those targeted by the Treasury Department’s action include various agents, companies and associates involved in procuring ballistic missile technology for Iran. Iranians, Lebanese, Chinese and Emirati individuals and companies also are now blacklisted from doing any business in the United States or with American citizens.
“Iran’s 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,” John E. Smith, the Treasury Department’s acting sanctions chief, said in a statement.
“We will continue to actively apply all available tools, including financial sanctions, to address this behavior,” Smith said.
The White House, however, has been clear that it designed the penalties in a way that would not violate the nuclear agreement, which the US forged in July 2015 between Iran and P5+1 world powers.
President Trump’s national security adviser Michael Flynn announced earlier this week that the administration was putting Iran “on notice” for its latest provocative activities, and Trump himself tweeted on Friday that “Iran is playing with fire — they don’t appreciate how ‘kind’ President Obama was to them. Not me.”
Tehran has repeatedly stressed that the imposition of new sanctions will be viewed as a violation of the nuclear accord, with Iranian officials warning the Trump administration against taking a tougher stance.
And Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif responded to Trump’s tweet, with one of his own. “Iran 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 defense.”
Iran 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 defense. pic.twitter.com/TxlSEL8rjj
— Javad Zarif (@JZarif) February 3, 2017
Iran has also confirmed that it recently tested its ballistic missiles but also denied they violated any Security Council resolutions.
In his statement, Flynn cited UN Security Council Resolution 2231, which calls upon Iran “not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such ballistic missile technology.”
Later Friday he powerful pro-Israel lobbying group AIPAC applauded the move.
“The Trump Administration has made clear that the United States intends to push back against Iran’s unacceptable actions, and these new designations mark an important first step,” AIPAC said in a statement, adding that “We also appreciate the bipartisan group of 22 senators who advocated for additional sanctions.”
On Thursday, Trump told reporters that “nothing is off the table,” regarding a US response to Iran’s activities, borrowing a phrase Netanyahu has used often vis-à-vis Tehran’s nuclear program.
His predecessor, Obama, also maintained that the military option was always on the table to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.
“We wanted to be very clear that we felt their actions were both provocative and in violation,” White House spokesman Sean Spicer said on Wednesday, “and making sure that they understood that we were weren’t going to sit by and not act on those actions.”
On January 29, lran launched a 4,000-kilometer (2,500-mile) range ballistic missile that drew immediate concern from the United Nations Security Council and outrage from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Terming the test a “flagrant breach” of UN Security Council resolutions, Netanyahu demanded the reimposition of sanctions against Iran on Monday and said he would discuss with Trump a reevaluation of the “entire failed nuclear accord” when he visits later this month.
Last Sunday, Trump committed to enforcing the nuclear deal, despite his campaign pledge to dismantle the landmark accord he repeatedly called “disastrous” and “one of the dumbest deals” he’s ever seen.
In a phone call with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abd Al-Aziz Al Saud, the president pledged to “rigorously enforc[e] the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action,” referring to the deal’s formal name, according to a White House readout of the conversation.
The two leaders also vowed to “address Iran’s destabilizing regional activities.”
The increased pressure on Iran non-nuclear provocations is likely to please Netanyahu, who on Thursday was warned by the White House against approving the constriction of “new settlements or the expansion of existing settlements beyond their current borders,” which White House press secretary Sean Spicer said “may not be helpful” toward achieving peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
Since Trump took office, Israel has approved several thousand new units in the West Bank, as well as an entirely new settlement, the first new one to be built in some 25 years.