WASHINGTON – United States President Donald Trump announced on Friday sanctions against Iran’s national bank, a move that comes six days after an attack on Saudi Arabian oil facilities that Riyadh blames on Tehran.
Trump told reporters at the White House at the start of his meeting with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison that the sanctions strike at the highest level.
Two days ago, Trump said he had ordered a significant increase in sanctions on Iran in the wake of the Sept. 14 attacks on the Khurais oilfield and Abqaiq processing facility, which both belong to state-owned Saudi Aramco.
“I have just instructed the Secretary of the Treasury (Steven Mnuchin) to substantially increase Sanctions on the country of Iran!” Donald Trump said Wednesday on Twitter.
In a statement, the US Treasury Department said the action against the Central Bank of Iran, the National Development Fund of Iran, and Etemad Tejarate Pars Co. “targets major sources of funding for the regime’s proxies and terrorist arms,” including the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, the Quds Force, Lebanese Shia Muslim movement Hezbollah and Yemen’s Houthi rebels.
“Iran’s Central Bank and the National Development Fund were ostensibly intended to safeguard the welfare of the Iranian people, but have been used instead by this corrupt regime to move Iran’s foreign currency reserves for terrorist proxies,” Mnuchin was quoted as saying.
The Houthi rebels – a Shia militia engaged in a protracted civil war against the internationally-recognized Yemeni government – claimed responsibility for the attack on the Saudi oil installations.
But Saudi Arabia says evidence shows the drones and missiles arrived from the north (Yemen borders Saudi Arabia to the south) and both Riyadh and the US say the attack was sponsored by Iran.
On Friday, Trump plans to review several military options against Iran but he remains reluctant to authorize a large-scale intervention.
US Defense Secretary Mark Esper and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joseph Dunford, are expected to present those options to Trump on Friday during a White House National Security Council meeting, according to a senior official cited by the New York Times.
The options to be proposed by the Pentagon are to be limited to “more clandestine operations,” which could include sites where Iran launches its drones and cruise missiles and stores its weapons, the paper added.
An influential Iranian general, Yahya Rahim Safavi, a military adviser to Iran’s supreme leader, on Friday vowed a wide-ranging response by the Islamic nation in the event of a US attack.
“If the Americans think up any plots, we’ll respond from the Mediterranean to the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean,” Safavi was quoted as saying by semi-official news agency Tasnim.