The United States imposed sanctions yesterday on Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and a string of military chiefs, tightening pressure on the country that President Donald Trump threatened with “obliteration” if it seeks war.
Trump signed the punitive financial measures against in the Oval Office, calling this a “strong and proportionate response to Iran’s increasingly provocative actions.” Repeating that “never can Iran have a nuclear weapon,” Trump said it was now up to Tehran to negotiate.
“We do not ask for conflict,” he said, adding that depending on Iran’s response the sanctions could end tomorrow or it “can also be years from now.” Expanding on the new measures, the Treasury said the United States will blacklist Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and block “billions” more in Iranian assets, with eight top commanders from Iran’s Revolutionary Guards already added to the list.
Meanwhile, Russia has said it will counter “illegal” sanctions Trump plans to impose on Iran.
Deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov did not reveal what steps Russia would take in response to the measures.
Ryabkov has said sanctions would increase tensions and that Washington should instead be seeking dialogue with Tehran, according to Russian news agencies. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the measures set to be imposed on the Middle Eastern country are illegal.
Tensions are running high after Iran shot down a US spy drone last week and Trump considered, then canceled, a retaliatory strike. Iran, crippled by existing US sanctions that include the blocking of most of its crucial oil exports, sought to play down the US move.
“Are there really any sanctions left that the United States has not imposed on our country recently or in the past 40 years?” Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said shortly before Trump signed his order. “We… do not consider them to have any impact,” he said.
Amid a flurry of diplomatic activity, the United States, Britain, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates urged “diplomatic solutions” in the standoff, which is playing out in a region crucial to the global economy’s oil supplies.
French President Emmanuel Macron said he would use a meeting with Trump at the G20 summit in Japan to urge “a constructive solution with the aim of ensuring collective regional security.”
The Kremlin, which has longstanding links to Iran’s government, earlier called Monday’s sanctions “illegal.”