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Trump hits Iran with new sanctions

Updated June 24, 2019 - 3:18 pm

WEDNESDAY — President Donald Trump signed an executive order Monday to impose new sanctions against Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, and eight top Islamic Revolutionary Guard commanders.

The White House signaled last week that the administration would amp up its “maximum pressure” economic sanctions in response to growing hostilities between Washington and Tehran that culminated with the downing of a $100 million U.S. drone on June 20. The sanctions are targeted to squeeze commanders stationed near the Persian Gulf and Strait of Hormuz, where the drone was shot down, and the financial institutions that assist them.

“These measures represent a strong and proportionate response to Iran’s increasingly provocative actions,” Trump said during a Monday morning signing ceremony, days after he decided not to order a retaliatory military strike that could have resulted in 150 Iranian deaths.

While Trump said he did not want to escalate hostility in the wake of the downing of an unmanned drone, Trump repeatedly has warned Iran about his determination not to allow the country to develop a nuclear weapon.

“We will continue to increase pressure on Tehran until the regime abandons its dangerous activities and its aspirations, including the pursuit of nuclear weapons, increased enrichment of uranium, development of ballistic missiles, engagement in and support for terrorism, fueling of foreign conflicts, and belligerent acts directed against the United States and its allies,” Trump said during a signing ceremony.

Later, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin talked to reporters during an eight-minute press briefing – the first such event in the White House in months. “Our issue is not with the people of Iran,” Mnuchin maintained.

Mnuchin said that some of the measures were in the works before the drone was downed and that the administration plans to target Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif with sanctions later this week.

“I like this sanctions move today because it really does shine a light on the regime kleptocracy in Iran,” tweeted Jonathan Schanzer of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. “Not enough has been said about how the Supreme Leader has enriched himself and his cronies at the expense of the average Iranian.”

But Georgetown University adjunct associate professor Trita Parsi wrote in the New Republic, “this ‘maximum pressure’ strategy is engineered to corner Trump into war with Iran.” Parsi speculated Trump’s foreign policy whisperers — in his administration and among foreign world leaders – “knew all too well that Tehran inevitably would respond to Washington’s escalations with its own counter-escalations, forcing Trump into a position to order military strikes, lest he come across as weak.”

Contact Debra J. Saunders at dsaunders@reviewjournal.com or 202-662-7391. Follow @debrajsaunders on Twitter.

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