U.S. to issue new Iran sanctions, opening shot in get-tough strategy: sources

Arshad Mohammed, Matt Spetalnick and Jonathan Landay — Reuters Feb 3, 2017

U.S. President Donald Trump is poised to impose new sanctions on multiple Iranian entities, seeking to ratchet up pressure on Tehran while crafting a broader strategy to counter what he sees as its destabilizing behavior, people familiar with the matter said on Thursday.

In the first tangible action against Iran since Trump took office on Jan. 20, the administration, on the same day he insisted that “nothing is off the table,” prepared to roll out new measures against more than two dozen Iranian targets, the sources said. The announcement is expected as early as Friday, they added.

The new sanctions, which are being taken under existing executive orders covering terrorism and weapons of mass destruction, may mark the opening shot in a more aggressive policy against Iran that Trump promised during the 2016 presidential campaign, the sources, who had knowledge of the administration’s plans, said.

But the package, targeting both entities and individuals, was formulated in a way that would not violate the 2015 Iran nuclear deal negotiated between Iran and six world powers including Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, they added.

The sources said the new sanctions had been in the works for some time and that Iran’s decision to test-fire a ballistic missile on Sunday helped trigger Trump’s decision to impose them, although Washington has not accused Iran of violating the nuclear deal.

The White House declined comment.

A U.S. State Department official said: “As standard policy, we do not preview sanction decisions before they are announced.”

The White House signaled a tougher stance toward Iran on Wednesday when Michael Flynn, Trump’s national security adviser, said he was putting Iran “on notice” after the missile test and senior U.S. officials said the administration was reviewing how to respond.

A top adviser to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said his country would not yield to “useless” U.S. threats from “an inexperienced person” over its ballistic missile program. The adviser, Ali Akbar Velayati, did not identify a specific U.S. official in his comments.

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