US announces new sanctions on Iran after missile strikes on bases in Iraq

S Secretary of Treasury Steven Mnuchin and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reaffirmed the US decision to impose further sanctions on Iran on Friday during a White House press conference. (AP)
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Updated 13 January 2020

US announces new sanctions on Iran after missile strikes on bases in Iraq

  • The sanctions will hit eight senior Iranian individuals involved in Tuesday's strikes on US positions
  • Mnuchin said the move would cut off access to "billions of dollars" for the regime

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump’s senior policy adviser and special representative for Iran Brian Hook has detailed the expanded sanctions on Iran.

The new sanctions were announced by the White House to target eight senior Iranian leaders as well as the country’s metals industry, which Hook said is funding Iran’s foreign policies.

The sanctions were announced earlier by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. 

Hook said that the expanded sanctions include Iran’s construction, manufacturing, textiles and mining industries. He added that they will also target 22 Iranian organizations and three shipping vessels operating in the iron, steel, aluminum and copper sectors.

Hook named one of the eight newly sanctioned Iranian leaders as Rear Adm. Ali Shamkhani, the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council. 

“What’s important about these officials is that these eight have carried Iran’s terror plots and campaigns of mayhem across the region. They are complicit in the recent murders of around 1,500 Iranians protesting their freedom,” said Hook.

He added: “As you know, the secretary of state created a tip line for the Iranian people to submit photos and videos and evidence of regime abuse. We have sanctioned the minister of communications and technology for turning off the internet shortly after the protests ended. We also sanctioned some judges. And today we are sanctioning eight senior Iranian leaders who were involved in brutalizing the Iranian people.”

During a brief teleconference with journalists, Hook addressed the justifications for the expanded sanctions, but not the impact they will have on Iran’s civilian population.

The expanded sanctions follow the decision by Trump to break the nuclear arms deal signed with Iran by his predecessor Barack Obama, and the US’ assassination of Quds Force commander Qassem Suleimani.

Hook said Suleimani was crucial to Iran’s campaign of targeting and killing hundreds of Americans over his 20 years as the Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s most important adviser.

“Suleimani was traveling in the region for the purpose of organizing attacks,” Hook said.

He added: “We have said Suleimani was targeting diplomatic facilities and he was also targeting American service members. He was looking at diplomats and service members, not the first time, because he had orchestrated the repeated attacks on Iraqi military bases that were hosting American coalition forces. 

Hook said that “this wasn’t the first time he has done this. He has been organizing proxies in Iraq for some time. When we had him in the region planning imminent attacks against American people and against American interests, the president then took decisive action. 

“If we had not taken that action and hundreds of people had died, you would be asking me now, why didn’t we do more to prevent Suleimani from killing so many people?”

Hook described Suleimani as “very effective and very lethal,” adding that he “is responsible for the murder of over 600 Americans.” He said Suleimani served as “the glue that held together the proxy forces in the grey zone” in Iraq and Syria.

“The Iran regime will be held accountable for the attacks of its proxies,” Hook said, citing the killing of an American on Dec. 27, 2019, conducted by the Iraqi paramilitary group Kataib Hezbollah, which he described as an Iranian proxy in Iraq and Syria. 

“Iran is the largest state sponsor of terrorism and they are in the most volatile region of the world … Iran can never acquire a nuclear weapon,” Hook vowed. 

“The president is issuing an executive order that authorizes the US to impose sanctions on any person operating in or trading with construction, manufacturing, textiles and mining sectors,” Hook said. 

“This order is going to have a major impact on the Iranian economy and leadership."

Hook said that despite the expanded sanctions, the Trump administration is “keeping the door open” to diplomacy.

“This regime is facing its worst financial crisis and its worst political arrest in its 40-year history. The regime has very bad options. They are in a state of panicked aggression,” Hook said. 

He said all of these sanctions “will remain in place until the regime changes its behavior,” adding that he was hoping Iran “will not respond to sanctions with military force.”

Turbulent times in parliament: A new normal for Turkish politics?

Updated 8 min 18 sec ago

Turbulent times in parliament: A new normal for Turkish politics?

  • Two deputies from the HDP and one deputy from the main opposition CHP lost their positions on Thursday
  • Insights from Ankara suggest two more parliamentarians from the HDP may be stripped of their seats soon

ISTANBUL: After three opposition politicians were stripped of their status as members of parliament in Turkey on Thursday, June 4, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) made it clear that a new period had begun in Turkish politics, given the country’s preoccupation with economic deterioration and rising unemployment that has already rendered many voters disenchanted. 
Two deputies from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) and one deputy from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) lost their positions, and were arrested in an overnight operation on terror charges.
The Kurdish politicians, Leyla Guven and Musa Farisogullari, were detained, while the CHP deputy, Kadri Enis Berberoglu, was released from police custody after less than 24 hours as part of anti-coronavirus measures in Turkish prisons. Several HDP deputies were later beaten by police during a protest in Ankara over the imprisonment of their colleagues.
Insights from Ankara suggest two more parliamentarians from the HDP may be stripped of their seats soon as their files are being reviewed by the Turkish Court of Cassation. 
The crackdown on opposition figures does not end with politicians. The government is also working on a legislative change to the way bar associations elect their board members. Fifty bar associations recently released a joint statement against any move to limit their power and to increase pressure on the country’s already weakened judiciary.
The AKP and its coalition partner, the Nationalist Movement Party, are also working on another legislative amendment to ban the transfer of parliamentary deputies to other parties over fears that newly founded opposition parties could be strengthened with the transfer of deputies from the CHP to take part of upcoming elections.
Ten new political parties were established in Turkey over the past five months, bringing the total number to 91 — two of them, the Democracy and Progress Party, and the Future Party, to target disillusioned AKP voters and liberal segments of society.
“Turkey has been a consolidated authoritarian state for some time and attacks on the HDP are certainly not new,” said Paul T. Levin, director of the Stockholm University Institute for Turkish Studies.
“Going after the CHP would be a dramatic escalation, but they have been focused on Berberoglu for some time due to his involvement in the arms truck scandal,” he told Arab News.
Berberoglu, a former journalist, was arrested for providing dissident daily newspaper Cumhuriyet with confidential footage of Turkish National Intelligence Organization trucks allegedly carrying weapons to Syria.
According to Levin, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan may be trying to weaken the opposition in advance of a snap election, that is widely expected to be held next year.  
“As for the bar associations, they have long been an important source of opposition to attempts to undermine the rule of law. It would really be a terrible blow to what remains of judicial independence if they were neutered,” he said.
There are still dozens of Kurdish politicians behind bars in Turkey, including parliamentarians, mayors and the party’s former co-chairs. The HDP released a statement following the arrests of Guven and Farisogullari, and said: “Turkey now witnesses yet another coup — this pro-coup mindset has been prevailing in parliament for 26 years.”