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US slaps ‘highest sanctions ever’ on Iran after Saudi oil attack

President Donald J. Trump delivers remarks on America’s environmental leadership Monday, July 8, 2019, in the East Room of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Tia Dufour/Released)
September 21, 2019

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

The United States has imposed another round of sanctions on Iran, including on its central bank and its sovereign wealth fund, following last week’s attack on Saudi Arabia’s oil infrastructure that Riyadh and Washington blame on Iran.

Describing the measures as “the highest sanctions ever imposed on a country,” President Donald Trump on September 20 signaled that he’s not inclined to authorize an immediate military action on Iran in response to the drone and missile attack.

Speaking in the Oval Office ahead of a meeting with his national security team, Trump said he believes showing restraint “shows far more strength” and he wants to avoid an all-out war.

“I think the sanctions work,” he told a joint press conference with Australian Prime Minster Scott Morrison. “The military would work. That’s a very severe form of winning.”

The new U.S. sanctions come amid heightened tensions in the Persian Gulf following the September 14 attack on the world’s biggest crude oil-processing plant in Saudi Arabia.

Yemen’s Iran-backed Huthi rebels have said they were behind the attack, and Tehran denies any involvement.

However, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said “Iran’s brazen attack against Saudi Arabia is unacceptable,” and that the United States “will continue its maximum pressure campaign against Iran’s repressive regime.”

The new sanctions target the Central Bank of Iran, the National Development Fund of Iran (NDF), and the Iran-based company Etemad Tejarate Pars, the statement said.

It described the targeted entities as major sources of funding for Tehran’s “proxies and terrorist arms,” including the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), its foreign arm, the Qods Force, and the Lebanese militia movement Hizballah.

The Treasury said that the central bank has provided “billions of dollars” to the IRGC, the Qods Force, and its “terrorist proxy,” Hizballah, while the NDF has been a “major source of foreign currency and funding” for the Qods Force and Iran’s Ministry of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics (MODAFL).

Etemad Tejarate Pars “is used to conceal financial transfers for MODAFL’s military purchases, including funds originating from the NDF,” the statement said.

The Treasury warned other nations against violating the U.S. sanctions and risking “the integrity of their financial systems.”

Iran’s central bank governor, Abdolnaser Hemmati, said the U.S. action against the lender “shows how empty their hands are in finding leverage against Iran,” according to state news agency IRNA.