US vows to keep pressure on Iran with new sanctions

Eight senior Iranian officials are among the targets in new financial crackdown

Brian Hook, U.S. Special Representative for Iran and Senior Policy Advisor to the Secretary of State, takes questions from the media at the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2020. Hook briefed earlier Simon Wiesenthal Center leadership, national interfaith and local Iranian leaders in a closed-door meeting on policy related to Iran. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

The United States has imposed more sanctions on Iran, in the latest escalation of the fallout over the killing of Qassem Suleimani.
They target eight senior figures in the regime, including top security officials, as well as construction and mining companies.

“This order will have a major impact on the Iranian economy,” President Donald Trump said in a statement. “These punishing economic sanctions will remain until the Iranian regime changes its behaviour.”

The move to expand penalties on the Islamic Republic comes one day after Trump said Iran would be sanctioned “immediately” for the airstrikes against two US military installations in Iraq, which resulted in no casualties.

The new measures are aimed at cracking down on Iran’s few remaining sources of export revenue and squeezing the nation’s economy to force its leaders back into negotiations for a new nuclear agreement.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, speaking at the White House on Friday, also said that the US will issue waivers on sanctions against Iran to allow foreign experts to work on the Ukrainian jetliner crash investigation.

The US said the passenger jet was likely downed by an Iranian missile with the loss of all 176 people on board around the time Tehran was attacking the bases in Iraq. Tehran has denied the claim.

The administration first prepared the sanctions in December, before tensions escalated between the US and Iran with the killing of Mr Suleimani.

US special representative for Iran Brian Hook said on Friday that the sanctions were designed to “deprive the regime of revenue to continue its expansionist policy” and expected the maximum pressure campaign of the Trump administration to increase.

He said the inclusion of members of Iran’s volunteer Basij militia was for both their roles “in terror plots around the region” and “being complicit in the murder of 1500 Iranians protesting for their freedom” in November.

He said the US since September 2018 had not drawn a distinction between Iran and its militant proxies in the region with Mr Suleimani “the glue” that kept them together.  That was why Mr Suleimani was also targeted in response to the attack by Iraqi Popular Mobilisation forces on US sites, Mr Hook said.