US slaps new sanctions on Hamas, vows to keep pressure on Iran

US slaps new sanctions on Hamas, vows to keep pressure on Iran

Washington blacklists 15 individuals and entities it says help finance terrorist operations; Mnuchin reiterates Trump’s openness to meet Iranian counterpart with no conditions

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin brief the media on September 10, 2019, at the White House in Washington, DC. (MANDEL NGAN / AFP)
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin brief the media on September 10, 2019, at the White House in Washington, DC. (MANDEL NGAN / AFP)

The United States on Tuesday announced sanctions against a “wide range” of terrorist groups and their supporters, including the Gaza Strip’s Hamas rulers and Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps, and vowed to keep up pressure on the Islamic Republic despite the departure of the administration’s most vociferous anti-Tehran hawk.

A US Treasury Department statement said the new sanctions were targeting 15 people and entities linked to Hamas, al-Qaeda, Islamic State and the IRGC.

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told reporters the measures were designed to “starve terrorists of resources they need to attack the United States and our allies, and will hold foreign financial institutions who continue to do business with them accountable.”

The statement said the sanctions were being implemented by a special Executive Order by US President Donald Trump.

One of the individuals named in the statement was Muhammad Sa’id Izadi, identified by the Treasury as “the chief of the Palestinian Office of the IRGC-­QF Lebanon Corp.”

The Revolutionary Guards were formed after the 1979 Islamic revolution with a mission to defend the clerical regime, in contrast to more traditional military units that protect borders.

The Guards have amassed strong power within Iran, including with significant economic interests, and have been accused of providing material support to Hamas and the Lebanon-based Hezbollah.

Zaher Jabarin, the Turkey-based head of Hamas’ finance office, was also blacklisted by Washington on Tuesday.

Members of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) march during the annual military parade marking the anniversary of the outbreak of the 1980-1988 war with Iraq, in the capital Tehran on September 22, 2018. (AFP/STR)

“In his capacity as head of Hamas’ Finance Department, Jabarin was focused on developing a financial network in Turkey that would allow Hamas to raise, invest, and launder money prior to transferring it to Gaza and the West Bank,” the statement said.

The blacklist included several other individuals and financial institutions based in Turkey that it said were providing services for Hamas, the IRGC, al-Qaeda and the Islamic State.

“You know we’ve done more sanctions on Iran than anybody, and it’s absolutely working,” Mnuchin said. “I would say Secretary [of State Mike] Pompeo and myself and the president are completely aligned on our maximum pressure campaign.”

The comments came hours after Trump announced that he had fired national security adviser John Bolton, who had been seen as pushing the administration’s hard line on Iran. Pompeo acknowledged disagreements with Bolton, but declined to expound on them.

Tensions have been escalating between Iran and the United States since May last year, when Trump pulled out of the 2015 nuclear accord with Tehran and began reimposing sanctions that have crippled the Iranian economy.

The announcement of new sanctions comes one day before the 18th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington, which were carried out by al-Qaeda.

Pompeo said the designations add “further muscle to US counterterrorism efforts [and] will help to ensure that the deadly attacks of September 11th that occurred 18 years ago this week are never repeated on American soil.”

The new sanctions are part of the Trump administration’s escalating campaign of economic and diplomatic measures against Iran since unilaterally withdrawing last year from the international accord.

In response, Iran has begun to increase enrichment activity as it pushes for Europe to bypass the US penalties.

On Monday, Trump expressed willingness to hold face-to-face talks with President Hassan Rouhani.

“Sure, anything’s possible. They would like to be able to solve their problem,” Reuters reported him telling members of the White House press corps. “We could solve it in 24 hours.”

US President Donald Trump updates the media on Hurricane Dorian preparedness from the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, DC, September 4, 2019. (Photo by JIM WATSON / AFP)

At the press conference Tuesday, Mnuchin reiterated Trump’s openness to meeting with his Iranian counterpart.

“Now the president has made clear, he is happy to take a meeting with no preconditions, but we are maintaining the maximum pressure campaign,” he told reporters.

Pompeo, standing alongside Mnuchin in the White House briefing room, said “sure” when asked whether Trump could meet Rouhani later this month on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

The Iranians have stated repeatedly that they will not meet with Trump unless his administration rolls back the sanctions imposed by his administration.

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