Trump reveals latest wave of US sanctions on Iran, including central bank

The United States is imposing sanctions on Iran's national bank, US President Donald Trump told reporters at the White House on Friday. (File/Shutterstock)
Updated 21 September 2019

Trump reveals latest wave of US sanctions on Iran, including central bank

  • US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the bank was Tehran's last source of funds
  • Asked about the possibility of a military response on Iran, Trump said the United States was always prepared

JEDDAH: US President Donald Trump on Friday revealed the details of additional sanctions against Iran, which he described as the toughest ever imposed.

The Treasury Department decided to take action against Iran’s central bank after US officials concluded that Tehran was responsible for last weekend’s drone and missile attacks on Saudi oil facilities in Abqaiq and Khurais.

“We have just sanctioned the Iranian national bank,” Trump said during a press conference in the Oval Office. “These are the highest sanctions ever imposed on a country.”

When asked about the possibility of a military response, Trump said: “The easiest thing I could do (is) knock out 15 different major things in Iran. I could do it right here in front of you and that would be it. And then you would have a nice, big story to report.

“But I think the strong-person approach, and the thing that does show strength, would be showing a little bit of restraint. Much easier to do it the other way. It’s much easier. And Iran knows if they misbehave, they’re on borrowed time.”

Meanwhile, Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday strongly condemned the attacks. During a telephone call to King Salman, he said the strikes were a “serious violation” of the Kingdom’s security and stability, and had affected on the global energy market.

According to SPA, Xi pledged China’s firm support for the Kingdom and highlighted the comprehensive strategic partnership between the two nations. 

He said his country would back Saudi efforts to ensure its security and territorial integrity, and expressed the appreciation of China for the measures taken by the Kingdom to maintain the flow of oil exports in the days after the strikes.

King Salman said the “criminal” attacks represented a serious escalation and significant threat to the security and stability of the region and to the world’s oil supplies. He added that the Kingdom will take appropriate measures to protect itself after completing the investigation into the attacks.

Expert analysts said a number of options remain available to Washington in response to the rogue actions of the regime in Tehran.

“The first option, of course, is the military option, with punitive strikes on oil and military infrastructure,” said Dr. Theodore Karasik, a senior adviser at Gulf State Analytics in Washington. He added that there are other options covering the spectrum of military operations, but the capabilities of Iran must be taken into consideration.

“There is a requirement to understand how violent state actors use drone technology and spread it to terrorist groups and vice versa. This question is important in terms of US options because of the ubiquitous drone issue,” he said.

“The second option is to push for UN support against Iran — condemning Iran for the global significance of the asymmetric attack.”

The third option, Karasik said, would be the deployment of the International Maritime Security Construct, an international surveillance mission the US is assembling involving 55 ships in the waters off Iran.

Dr. Hamdan Al-Shehri, a Saudi political analyst and international-relations scholar in Riyadh, said the most direct response would be to target Iranian oil refineries and facilities in a tit-for-tat attack.

“Option 2 would be to hit Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps installations and intelligence-gathering facilities inside Iran,” he said.

A third option would be to launch a cyber attack in an attempt to cripple Tehran’s command-and-control systems, according to Al-Shehri.

“This was done in the past when a computer worm called Stuxnet caused substantial damage to Iran’s nuclear program,” he said.

Harvard scholar and Iranian-affairs expert Majid Rafizadeh said that a combined approach by the US is the best option.

“A multi-dimensional policy is required,” he said, the first part of which would be “stepping up the ‘maximum pressure’ campaign” against Tehran.

Increasing economic sanctions has proven inadequate, however, so this would be accompanied by the formation of a coalition of regional and global states to maximize the economic and political pressure on Iran, he added.

Most importantly, he said, these two options must be accompanied by a military response proportionate to Iran’s actions against the Kingdom.


US reaches ceasefire deal with Turkey in northern Syria

Updated 20 min 41 sec ago

US reaches ceasefire deal with Turkey in northern Syria

  • Truce announced by Vice President Mike Pence after talks in Ankara with Turkey’s President Erdogan
  • Turkey will control strip of Syria more than 30km deep after YPG withdrawal

ANKARA: Turkey agreed on Thursday to pause its offensive in Syria for five days to let Kurdish forces withdraw from a “safe zone” Ankara had sought to capture, in a deal hailed by Washington but which Turkish leaders cast as a complete victory.
The truce was announced by US Vice President Mike Pence after talks in Ankara with Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan, and was swiftly hailed by President Donald Trump, who said it would save “millions of lives.”

 


But if implemented it would achieve all the main objectives Turkey announced when it launched the assault eight days ago: control of a strip of Syria more than 30 kilometers deep, with the Kurdish YPG militia, formerly close US allies, obliged to pull out.
“The safe zone will be primarily enforced by the Turkish Armed Forces,” a joint US-Turkish statement released after the talks said.
A Turkish official told Reuters Ankara got “exactly what we wanted” from the talks with the United States. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu described it as a pause, solely to allow the Kurdish fighters to withdraw.

 

Kurdish fighters would be forced to give up their heavy weapons and their positions would be destroyed, Cavusoglu said. He declined to call the agreement a “cease-fire,” saying cease-fires could be agreed only by legitimate sides, and not by the Kurds that Turkey considers terrorists.
Pence said Washington had already been in contact with the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which had agreed to withdraw and were already pulling out.
Trump tweeted: “Great news out of Turkey.”
“Thank you to Erdogan,” Trump said. “Millions of lives will be saved!“
“Today the United States and Turkey have agreed to a cease-fire in Syria,” Pence told a news conference after more than four hours of talks at the presidential palace in Ankara.
“The Turkish side will pause Operation Peace Spring in order to allow for the withdrawal of YPG forces from the safe zone for 120 hours,” Pence said. “All military operations under Operation Peace Spring will be paused, and Operation Peace Spring will be halted entirely on completion of the withdrawal.”
The deal struck with Erdogan also provided for Turkey not to engage in military operations in the flashpoint Syrian border town of Kobani, Pence said. Cavusoglu said Turkey had given no commitments about Kobani.
Pence added that he had spoken to Trump after the talks and that Trump had expressed his gratitude for the cease-fire accord. Washington’s main goal had been to halt the violence, and it had succeeded, Pence said.
The Turkish assault has created a new humanitarian crisis in Syria with 200,000 civilians taking flight, a security alert over thousands of Daesh fighters abandoned in Kurdish jails, and a political maelstrom at home for Trump.
Trump has been accused of abandoning Kurdish-led fighters, Washington’s main partners in the battle to dismantle Islamic State’s self-declared caliphate in Syria, by withdrawing troops from the border as Ankara launched its offensive on Oct. 9.
Trump had defended his move on Wednesday as “strategically brilliant.” He said he thought Pence and Erdogan would have a successful meeting, but warned of sanctions and tariffs that “will be devastating to Turkey’s economy” otherwise.