Donald Trump signed an executive order imposing new sanctions on Iran, a move he says will target the country's "Supreme Leader," Ali Khamenei, CBS News reports.
In a surprise Oval Office ceremony, Trump imposed sanctions that cut off Khamenei's access to the U.S. financial system, as well as to his own assets in the U.S. The sanctions, which are on top of existing sanctions against the Middle Eastern country, come days after Iran shot down a U.S. drone that it claims was in its airspace (a claim the U.S. denies). However, Trump said the sanctions against Khamenei would have been instituted regardless of the drone being shot down, according to Yahoo News.
In additon to Khamenei, the sanctions will target other high-ranking officials in the Iranian government, says Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, who was present at the Oval Office signing ceremony. Specifically, Mnuchin named three men and their alleged crimes: Ali Reza Tangsiri, whom Mnuchin accused of being the mastermind of Iran's alleged efforts to close the Strait of Hormuz; Amirali Hajizadeh, the command of the Iranian air force whom Mnuchin accuses of ordering the shot that struck down an American drone; and Mohammad Pakpour, the commander of the Iranian military's ground forces.
"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 and its aspirations including the pursuit of nuclear weapons," Trump said.In issuing the order, Trump repeated the same allegations against Iran that prompted him to reject the Iran nuclear deal, authorized during the Obama administration in 2015, in the first place. That plan provided for the easing of sanctions against Iran in exchange for Iran giving up its nuclear program. Trump, however, has accused Iran of pursing its nuclear ambitions (including by enriching uranium); promoting international terrorism; and attempting to destabilize the Middle East; among other purported actions.
Tensions have been escalating between the U.S. and Iran in recent weeks, particularly following an attack, purportedly carried out by Iran, against oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz. That was followed by the attack on the American drone, to which Trump was reportedly prepared to respond with a targeted air strike, before calling it off at the last minute. Trump has said that he decided to call of the strike because he was concerned about the number of civilian deaths that would have been "collateral damage" in the strike.