Trump Hits Iran with Fresh Sanctions over Missile Test, Tehran Stays Defiant

A statue of Iranians fire fighters placing Irans National Flag in front of a Fire Station in Tehran, Iran, 20 January 2017. Photo: Abedin Taherkenareh/EPA/REX/Shutterstock

The Administration of new US President Donald Trump has imposed new sanctions on Iran in a move than might signal a somewhat expected “tougher” course against Tehran, after the Middle Eastern country recently carried out a test of medium-range ballistic missiles.

The move has been quick to generate backlash by the Iranian leadership, with Tehran promising counter-sanctions and carrying out military exercises and further missile tests almost immediately.

The US Department of Treasure which introduced the new sanctions argued that rather than hurting the July 2015 deal (known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) Iran made with six foreign powers (US included) to keep the peaceful nature of its nuclear program, the measures actually solidify America’s commitment to it.

The 2015 Iran nuclear deal was championed by former US President Barack Obama and his Administration as one of its landmark achievements.

The New Sanctions

On Friday, February 3, 2017, the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced it was sanctioning “multiple entities and individuals involved in procuring technology and/or materials to support Iran’s ballistic missile program, as well as for acting for or on behalf of, or providing support to, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF).”

“This action reflects the United States’ commitment to enforcing sanctions on Iran with respect to its ballistic missile program and destabilizing activities in the region, and is fully consistent with the United States’ commitments under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA),” the US Treasury stated.

More specifically, the new US sanctions against Tehran affect a total of 25 individuals and companies connected to Iran’s ballistic missile program and Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Qods Force.

These including three separate networks supporting Tehran’s missile program which is opposed by the US: the Abdollah Asgharzadeh network, the Gulf-based Rostamian network, and the Iran-based Network working with Navid Composite and Mabrooka Trading.

“Iran’s continued support for terrorism and development of its ballistic missile program poses a threat to the region, to our partners worldwide, and to the United States. Today’s action is part of Treasury’s ongoing efforts to counter Iranian malign activity abroad,“ Acting OFAC Director John E. Smith is quoted as saying.

As per the new sanctions, all property and interests in property of those designated which are subject to US jurisdiction are blocked, and US persons are banned from engaging in transactions with them.

“Not Behaving”

Shortly before the introduction of the sanctions, a number of US media predicted the move of the Trump Administration citing unnamed sources, while Trump’s National Security Adviser, Michael Flynn and House Speaker Paul Ryan all hinted of the possibility.

“They’re not behaving,” Trump said of Iran in the Oval Office on Friday as he signed unrelated executive orders, as cited by CNN.

Earlier this week, Iran confirmed it performed a new missile test on Sunday, January 29, 2017, but argued that it had not violated the 2015 deal since the tested missile was incapable of delivering nuclear warheads.

The new sanctions are adding up to the tension already existing between Iran’s leadership and the Trump Administration, after last week President Trump included Iran, together with six other Muslim Middle Eastern countries (Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen) in his executive order barring their citizens from immigration and travel to the United States.

The move, which has become famous as “the Muslim travel ban”, led Iran to respond by forbidding US wrestlers to participate in the Takhti Cup, a freestyle wrestling competition scheduled to take place in Kermanshah on February 16-17, 2017.

Iran’s Countermoves

Iran’s immediate reaction to the new US sanctions against it introduced by the Trump Administration has been to denounce them, and to vow its own sanctions on American individuals and companies.

“Retaliating the US inclusion of the Iranian people and companies to the list of sanctions, Iran will exert legal restrictions against the American individuals and companies which have a role in aiding extremist and terrorist groups or contribute to the suppression and murder of the defenseless people in the region. Their names will be announced subsequently,“ the Iranian Foreign Ministry said in a statement, as cited by Iran’s state-owned news agency IRNA.

Contrary to the US Department of Treasury, Iran’s Foreign Ministry argued that the new American sanctions actually contradict the US commitments under the 2015 nuclear deal and UN documents.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran will appropriately counter any measure threatening the nation’s interests, as it has suspended issuance of visas for the Americans in a tit-for-tat move against the US travel ban for the Iranians,“ the Ministry said.

On Saturday, the day after the fresh US sanctions were introduced, Iran went ahead with further missile tests during an annual military exercise, trying out land-to-land missiles and radar systems, the semi-official Tasnim agency reported, as cited by Bloomberg.

“If the enemy falls out of line, our missiles will pour down on them,” brigadier general Amir Ali Hajizadeh, commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps’ aerospace division, declared, adding that any US threats against Iran were “nonsensical”.

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