US President Donald Trump on Monday signed an executive order imposing new economic sanctions on Iran as he upped the ante in response to the gulf nation’s recent acts of aggression. The latest round of sanctions is bound to sharply escalate the simmering tensions between the two nation.
The executive order, which builds further on the existing sanctions that will effectively strip Iran of oil-export revenue, freezes the assets of Iranian officials including that of country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Khomeini.
Trump claimed that the “hard-hitting” fresh sanctions would prevent top Iranian officials from accessing financial instruments. Still sound re-conciliatory, Trump said that he did not seek conflict but it “cannot ever let Iran have a nuclear weapon”.
Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin dismissed the suggestion that the latest round of sanctions was “symbolic,” pointing out that order will effectively “lock up tens of billions of dollars” previously held by the most influential people in Iranian government.
The latest round of sanctions come comes after Iran shot down a U.S. military drone last week claiming that it was flying over Iranian air space in the southern Gulf region, further exacerbating tensions between the two countries.
The Iranian Revolutionary Guard website said its air force shot down the “spy” drone over the southern province of Hormozgan after it “violated” Iranian airspace, but the US Navy said the unmanned surveillance aircraft was flying in international airspace over the Strait of Hormuz, a major thoroughfare through which one-third of the world’s global oil supply flows.
The Navy’s MQ-4C Triton drone, which costs roughly $180 million and provides real-time intelligence and surveillance to forces on the ground, was shot down by an Iranian surface-to-air missile, U.S. Central Command said. The Iranians also unsuccessfully attempted to shoot down a second drone.
After a belligerent initial response, US President Donald Trump appeared to downplay the significance of Iran shooting down a US drone over the Gulf, saying he found it “hard to believe” the move was intentional only hours after he had warned that Tehran had made a “very big mistake”.
Trump initially toyed with idea of retaliating with a missile strike against a number of Iranian radar facilities, but minutes before the strike was to be launched, he reversed his decision concluding that the resulting casualties would represent a “disproportionate response” to the downing of an unmanned drone.