By Ken Bredemeier | VOA News |
(VOA News) – U.S. President Donald Trump imposed what he described as “hard-hitting” new financial sanctions on Iran on Monday, specifically targeting the country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Trump signed an executive order he said would curb access that Khamenei and the country have to world financial markets. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the action would “literally” lock up “tens and tens of billions of dollars” of Iranian assets.
The U.S. leader called his order a “strong and proportionate” American response to Tehran’s shoot-down last week of an unmanned U.S. drone, which Washington says occurred in international airspace near the Strait of Hormuz and Iran claims occurred over its airspace
Trump at the last minute last Thursday rejected a military response to the downing of the drone upon learning that about 150 Iranians would be killed in a U.S. attack. In announcing the new sanctions, he said “I think a lot of restraint has been shown by us, but that doesn’t mean we’re going to show it in the future. But we’ll give it a chance.”
Trump said he imposed the sanctions because of a series of “belligerent acts” carried out by Iran, which U.S. officials say include Iran’s targeting of Norwegian and Japanese ships traversing the Strait of Hormuz with mine explosions days before the attack on the drone.
The executive order is aimed at pushing Tehran back to one-on-one talks with the U.S. over its nuclear weapons program after Trump last year withdrew from the 2015 international pact restraining Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief. Trump called the international deal negotiated by his predecessor, former President Barack Obama, “a disaster.”