US hits Iran with new sanctions over nuke plans

Reuters
The US on Monday slapped new sanctions on Iran, despite oppositions by major UN members including its own European allies.
Reuters
US hits Iran with new sanctions over nuke plans
AFP

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during a news conference to announce the Trump administration’s restoration of sanctions on Iran on Monday at the US State Department in Washington, DC.

The United States on Monday slapped new sanctions on Iran’s defense ministry and others involved in its nuclear and weapons program to support the US assertion that all UN sanctions against Tehran are now restored, which key European allies as well as Russia and China reject.

Iran said the new US sanctions, which targeted 27 Iranian entities and people in the nuclear, missile and conventional arms sectors, would have no effect and accused the United States of seeking publicity.

The latest sanctions include a new executive order signed by President Donald Trump targeting those who buy or sell Iran conventional arms.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Washington had put new sanctions on Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro under the order, accusing Iran and Venezuela of having worked “to flout the UN arms embargo” for nearly two years.

Under the same order, the United States also imposed penalties on Iran’s Ministry of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics, as well as its Defense Industries Organization and its director, Mehrdad Akhlaghi-Ketabchi.

Others targeted under different programs include senior Atomic Energy Organization of Iran officials as well as people associated with its liquid propellant ballistic missile organization, Shahid Hemmat Industrial Group.

The impetus for the US action is the impending expiry of a UN arms embargo on Iran and an effort to warn foreign actors that they will face US sanctions if they buy or sell arms to Iran. US entities are already barred from such trade.

Under the 2015 nuclear deal, the UN conventional arms embargo is to set to expire on October 18, shortly before the November 3 US presidential election. “No matter who you are, if you violate the UN arms embargo on Iran, you risk sanctions,” Pompeo told a news conference with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Robert O’Brien, the national security adviser.

The United States, which abandoned the Iran nuclear deal in May 2018 and subsequently restored its own bilateral sanctions, says it triggered a “snap back,” or resumption, of all UN sanctions on Iran, including the arms embargo, on Saturday.

The other parties to the nuclear deal and most UN Security Council members have said the US move has no legal effect.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif brushed aside the announcement as “nothing new.”

“The United States has exerted all the pressure it could on Iran. It had hoped that these sanctions will bring our people into their knee. It did not,” Zarif, speaking from Tehran, told a virtual meeting of the US Council on Foreign Relations.

Zarif also struck a conciliatory note by repeating that Tehran is ready to exchange prisoners with Washington.

Elizabeth Rosenberg, a sanctions expert at the Center for a New American Security, said Monday’s action did not significantly “move the needle” — either in raising pressure on Iran or in punishing those who deal with it.

“The United States has already significantly targeted Iran, and this new action doesn’t ... cause much more significant pain,” she said.

The International Atomic Energy Agency said Iran is enriching uranium only up to 4.5 percent, well below the 20 percent it achieved before the 2015 agreement, let alone the roughly 90 percent purity that is considered weapons-grade.

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