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WASHINGTON — The Trump administration announced new sanctions against Iran Friday morning, the latest move in a conflict-filled week between the countries.
Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said the sanctions would target Iran’s construction, manufacturing, textiles, mining, and aviation industries. They also include both “primary and secondary” sanctions — ones targeting Iranian citizens and those who do business with them. He also said they’d further target Iranian officials.
VICE News first reported Thursday that these sanctions would be announced this week and would focus on Iran’s major industries other than oil, as well as top officials.
The sanctions announcement comes after a week of sky-high tensions between the two countries. On President Trump’s orders, the U.S. military last week killed top Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani, considered the nation’s second most powerful leader and the architect of Iranian proxy forces throughout the Middle East for the past few decades. Iran vowed to retaliate for the killing, and on Tuesday fired a dozen-plus ballistic missiles at two U.S. bases in Iraq. But that missile strike didn’t kill any Iraqis or Americans, likely an attempt at deescalation.
It’s unlikely the new U.S. sanctions will do much to worsen tensions with Iran. Rather than whether sanctions can change Iran’s behavior, the real question is whether the two countries can avoid future armed conflict, after the past few weeks of tangible conflict.
It’s also doubtful the sanctions will have much real political impact. The Trump administration has already had a “maximum pressure” campaign of sanctions that have badly damaged Iran’s economy, and experts told VICE News earlier this week that any additional sanctions would likely have a negligible impact on the country’s already-ailing economy. Even if the sanctions do further damage, it’s unlikely they’d have much effect on changing Iranian behavior, which is supposed to be the goal.
After Soleimani’s death, the Trump administration has tried to come up with a national security justification: that there was an “imminent threat” of an attack, though they’ve provided no further explanation. On Friday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo danced around reporters’ questions on inconsistencies in his and other Trump administration officials’ claims.
Lawmakers in both parties slammed Pompeo and other Trump officials for refusing to give evidence of the strike’s necessity during classified briefings with Congress on Wednesday. On Thursday, he and Trump claimed that Soleimani was planning attacks against multiple U.S. embassies. Pompeo then claimed on Friday that this claim was included in the classified briefing, but multiple lawmakers have said that wasn’t true.
“We didn’t know precisely when and we didn’t know precisely where” that threat would occur, Pompeo later admitted. That raised the question of how intelligence could show a threat was imminent.
During his Friday briefing, he attempted to square those seemingly conflicting comments.
“We had specific information on an imminent threat, and that threat included attacks on U.S. embassies. Period. Full stop,” Pompeo claimed.
Cover: 24 June 2019- Washington DC- United States Secretary of the Treasury Steven T. Mnuchin holds a news briefing at the White House on additional sanctions imposed by the U.S. on Iran. Photo Credit: Chris Kleponis/Sipa USA(Sipa via AP Images)
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