Team Trump Goes Back To Sanctions Playbook 1

The Trump administration announced fresh sanctions on Iran Friday following Tehran’s missile strikes on an Iraqi military base housing American troops. 

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a press conference Friday that the U.S. had sanctioned eight Iranian officials as well as companies in the country’s steel, metals, and mining sectors.

Several of those companies have been blacklisted, meaning American individuals and entities are barred from doing any business with them. The Iranian officials sanctioned include the Deputy Chief of Staff of the Iranian armed forces and the head of the Basij militia of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). 

“The president is issuing an executive order authorizing the additional sanctions against any individual owning, operating, trading with, or assisting sectors of the Iranian economy,” Mnuchin said during the press conference, adding that the sanctions would cut off “billions” of dollars from Tehran’s economy.

The sanctions are part of the Trump administration’s years-long campaign to wage economic warfare on Tehran through its so-called maximum pressure campaign. That campaign has designated more than 1,000 Iranian entities, hitting Tehran’s most critical and prosperous industries, including the petrochemical and oil sectors. The newest sanctions attempt to prohibit Tehran’s access to its financial reserves.

“There’s about 70 to 80 billion sitting in these accounts across the world that the administration could overnight prohibit access to,” Mark Dubowitz, the CEO of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, said. 

Pompeo and Mnuchin’s announcement comes nearly one week after the U.S. targeted and killed Iran’s top military commander Qassem Soleimani —which was a clear departure from previous policy.

Until last week the administration had focused most of its efforts on exacting financial punishments against Iran and had refrained from engaging with Tehran militarily. Since the strike on Soleimani, members of Congress have pressured President Donald Trump to return to the status quo—to sanction Iran for its actions and to avoid hitting back militarily.

The original goal of implementing financial sanctions on Iran was in part to try and convince Tehran to come back to the negotiating table on the nuclear agreements. Since the beginning of the campaign, the U.S. and Iran have through intermediaries discussed the possibility of starting official talks on the deal. But since the Soleimani assassination, Iran experts as well as current and former U.S. officials tell The Daily Beast that it is not likely the two sides will engage diplomatically in any meaningful way in the near future. 

“Iran has already stepped back further from its commitments under the nuclear deal following Soleimani’s assassination,” said one former Obama administration official who worked on Iran policy. “I don’t see them moving forward on the nuclear deal talks right now.”