US imposing ‘hard-hitting’ sanctions amid escalating tensions with Iran

World Today

The United Nations Security Council is calling for ‘maximum restraint’ amid heightened tension between the United States and Iran.

It follows Iran’s downing of a U.S. drone in the Gulf of Oman and attacks on oil tankers near the Strait of Hormuz.

The Council met behind closed doors the same day U.S. President Donald Trump imposed new sanctions on Iran.

Tehran has denied any wrongdoing and says the sanctions will have no impact.

CGTN’s Jim Spellman explains.

The new U.S. sanctions target Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei and other high-ranking officials plus eight senior military commanders of the elite Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps.

“These measures represent a strong and proportionate response to Iran’s increasingly provocative actions. We will continue to increase pressure on Tehran until the regime abandons its dangerous activities,”  Trump said.

The sanctions will ban those officials from doing business with U.S. entities while freezing assets in American banks.

“For the people who say these are just symbolic that’s not the case at all. We have literally locked up tens and tens of billions of dollars. These sanctions will come along with additional entities where people are hiding money. So, no, these sanctions are highly effective,” U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said.

Last year, President Trump pulled the U.S. out of the Iran nuclear deal- despite the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) saying Tehran was in compliance with the agreement. Trump now wants direct negotiations with Iran to forge a new nuclear deal.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who may be targeted for sanctions later this week, rejects the Trump administration’s motives.

“They despise diplomacy and thirst for war,” Zarif tweeted.

Existing sanctions have taken a toll on the Iranian economy but haven’t brought officials to the negotiating table.

“Are there really any sanctions left that the United States has not imposed on our country recently or in the past 40 years? And the sanctions they have imposed, what achievement or results have they had?,” asked Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman, Abbas Mousavi.

This all comes after Trump decided against military action in response to Iran shooting down an unmanned drone last week. According to published reports, the U.S., instead, launched a cyber-attack against Iranian military computer systems used to control its rockets and missiles launchers.

Iran says those attacks were unsuccessful and that it remains capable of shooting down U.S. drones. If that happens, it’s not at all clear how President Trump may react.

Mansour Farhang on the potential impact of the latest US sanctions on Iran

The Trump Administration has imposed new sanctions on Iran, targetting the Ayatollah and Iranian officials. CGTN’s Asieh Namdar spoke with Mansour Farhang for his take on the potential impact of the latest sanctions, and the possibility of future negotiations. Farhang is a Professor of Politics at Bennington college, where he studies U.S.-Iran relations.