US May Slap New Sanctions on Iran over Missile Test as Travel Ban Tensions Simmer

US President Trump’s original “Muslim travel ban” executive order caused protests worldwide. Here migrant workers are seen holding placards during a protest against it in Hong Kong, China, 05 February 2017. Photo: Jerome Favre/EPA/REX/Shutterstock

The Administration of new US President Donald Trump is considering new sanctions against Iran after the Middle Eastern country recently carried out a test of medium-range ballistic missiles.

It is unclear to what extent potential new US sanctions against Tehran, which might target Iranian individuals, companies, and government institutions, might undo the lifting of sanctions implemented by the Administration of former President Barack Obama at the end of his second term.

The easing of sanctions under Obama was in follow-up of a landmark deal between Iran and six major powers, including the USA, reached in July 2015, in which Iran scaled back its nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions.

President Donald Trump could impose Iran with new sanctions on Iran shortly, NBC News reported citing own unnamed senior officials. Similar reports based on anonymous sources have appeared in other major US news outlets as well.

According to the officials cited by NBC News, the US new sanctions on Iran will be response to the latter’s “continuous terrorist activity” and “repeated ballistic missile tests”. They believe, however, that the new sanctions are not going to affect the existing Iranian nuclear deal.

Iran’s Latest

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

The news about Iran’s new missile test launch generated strong reactions on part of the Trump Administration, with Trump’s National Security Adviser, Michael Flynn, stating that the United States was “officially putting Iran on notice”, without elaborating as to the specific meaning of the phrase.

“Iran is now feeling emboldened,” Flynn said, referring not just to the missile test but also to Iran’s alleged support for Shiite rebels in Yemen.

While Washington saw Iran’s missile launch as provocative regardless of where it stood with respect to the Iranian nuclear deal, Iran’s leadership has vehemently defended its move.

“The recent test was in line with our plans and we will not allow foreigners to interfere in our defense affairs. The test did not violate the nuclear deal or the [UN] resolution 2231,” Iran’s Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan declared, as cited by the Tasnim news agency, Al Jazeera reported.

‘Putting the Toothpaste Back’

In addition to media reports, the possibility of new US sanctions against Iran was raised by Republican members of Congress.

“I’d like to put as much toothpaste back in the tube as possible. I think the last administration appeased Iran far too much,” House Speaker Paul Ryan said at a news conference, as cited by the NPR.

Republican Sen. Bob Corker, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, also made declarations in favor of new sanctions, speaking on MSNBC.

“The Iran sanctions that have gone in place… have always been through US leadership. It’s too early to talk about military options… at a minimum we’re looking at tougher sanctions on the nuclear issue,” he stated.

The potential new sanctions against Iran would reflect the long-standing criticism that President Donald J. Trump directed at his predecessor over Iran as early as the start of the 2016 presidential campaign, accusing Barack Obama of not being “tough enough” on Iran.

“We have to be tough. It’s time we’re gonna be a little tough, folks… We’re taken advantage of by every nation in the world, virtually. It’s not gonna happen anymore,“ Trump declared on Thursday, as cited by the NPR.

Retaliation (Not) in Kind

The specter of sanctions is adding new layers to the tension already simmering 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 of any immigration or travel to the United States.

The move, which has become famous as “the Muslim travel ban”, sparked domestic and international criticism for the new American President.

In response to putting Iran on the US travel ban list, on Friday Iran’s Foreign Ministry announced it had decided to forbid 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 state-owned news agency IRNA reported.

Bahram Ghasemi, a spokesperson for the Ministry, said the policy of the Trump Administration had not Iran any choice other than banning the American wrestling team from the competition. The decision is the first Iranian act in retaliation to the “Muslim travel ban”.

US freestyle wrestlers have competed 15 times in Iran since the 1998 Takhti Cup in Tehran, which followed an absence of nearly 20 years, Fox News reminded. Iranian wrestlers have made 16 visits to the US as guests of USA Wrestling since the 1990s.

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