The Trump administration on Tuesday slapped new sanctions on 18 Iranian individuals, groups and networks for aiding Iran military and supporting the country’s ballistic missile program.
The move comes the day after the administration certified to Congress that Iran is technically complying with the nuclear deal and can continue enjoying nuclear sanctions relief, but warned penalties may still be in the offing over non-nuclear behavior.
The US Treasury Department sanctions targeted seven groups and five people that aided Iran’s military or the elite Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. The sanctions also targeted what the US says is a transnational criminal group based in Iran and three people associated with it, which the Treasury Department says stole software from the US and other Western countries.
The State Department also targeted two more groups associated with Iran’s ballistic missiles program and said it was “deeply concerned” over Tehran’s support for Lebanese terror group Hezbollah and Palestinian terror groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
“Iran’s continued malign activities outside the nuclear issue undermine the positive contributions to regional and international peace and security that the deal was supposed to provide,” State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert. “The United States will continue to use sanctions to target those who lend support to Iran’s destabilizing behavior and above all, the United States will never allow the regime in Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon.”
US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said that the sanctions show that the Trump administration will continue to act “aggressively” against Iran’s “provocative and destabilizing behavior.”
“This Administration will continue to aggressively target Iran’s malign activity, including their ongoing state support of terrorism, ballistic missile program, and human rights abuses,” Mnuchin said in a statement.
“These sanctions target procurement of advanced military hardware, such as fast attack boats and unmanned aerial vehicles, and send a strong signal that the United States cannot and will not tolerate Iran’s provocative and destabilizing behavior. We will continue to target the IRGC and pressure Iran to cease its ballistic missile program and malign activities in the region.”
The sanctions freeze any assets the targets may have in the US and prevent Americans from doing business with them.
Tuesday’s sanctions came after the US Senate in June overwhelmingly passed legislation to strengthen sanctions against Iran for its ballistic missile testing and other non-nuclear provocations.
Passed by a vote of 98-2, the Countering Iran’s Destabilizing Activities Act of 2017 is supposed to impose new mandatory sanctions against persons and entities involved in Iran’s ballistic missile program and sanctions against the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps.
Both Democrats and Republicans in Washington have insisted on responding to Iran’s provocative ballistic missile tests for months, but reportedly waited until after the recent Iran election to vote on this legislation.
The bill still has to go to the House of Representatives. If it passes there, it will go to the president’s desk.
On Monday, a senior administration official said that while the US verified the conditions of the nuclear agreement has been met, the Iranian regime’s non-nuclear behavior poses multiple threats to US interests and foments instability in the region, actions that will likely lead to fresh sanctions.
“We do expect that we will be implementing new sanctions,” he said.
Despite Iranian compliance with the strict contours of the pact, US President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Tillerson would emphasize the regime “remains one of the most dangerous threats to US interests and to regional stability” while “highlighting the range of malign activities by Iran that extend well beyond the nuclear realm,” the official said.
Earlier in the day, Iran’s top army chief threatened attacks on US military bases in the Middle East in the event that new sanctions are imposed on the the regime as a result of the bill in Congress.
Iran’s chief of staff, Major General Mohammad Hossein Bagheri, said that designating the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps a terrorist organization would be a huge miscalculation, and threatened the consequences of doing so, saying it could destabilize the entire region, Iranian media reported.
“Drawing an analogy between the IRGC and terrorist groups and imposing the same sanctions on the IRGC would be a big risk to the US and its bases and forces stationed in the region,” Bagheri told a group of military commanders in Mashhad.
Bagheri also said the US should be wary of imposing new sanctions on the country to stop its missile program.
“The Islamic Republic of Iran’s missile power is defensive and is never negotiable at any level,” he said.