Sep 21, 2020 - World

Trump announces new Iran sanctions in effort to maintain international arms embargo

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Photo: Anna Moneymaker-Pool/Getty Images

President Trump signed an executive order on Monday that would impose sanctions on any person or entity that contributes to the supply, sale, or transfer of conventional arms to or from Iran or is engaged in providing training and financial support related to those weapons.

Why it matters: The executive order is the first step by the Trump administration to put teeth into its claim that international sanctions on Iran were restored over the weekend, one month after the U.S. initiated the "snapback" process under a United Nations Security Council resolution.

The big picture: The immediate goal of the new U.S. sanctions is maintaining the UN's 2007 arms embargo on Iran, which is set to expire in October. The Trump administration hopes that the wide-ranging sanctions will discourage governments and private companies from buying or selling arms to Iran in fear they will be sanctioned by the U.S. government.

In addition to the executive order, the State Department, Treasury Department and Commerce Department announced the following measures:

  • Sanctions on Iran’s Ministry of Defense and Iran’s Defense Industries Organization.
  • Designation of six individuals and three entities associated with the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran.
  • Export control restrictions by the Commerce Department on five senior Iranian nuclear scientists who are allegedly involved in Iran’s nuclear weapons program.
  • Designation by the Treasury Department of three individuals and four entities associated with Iran’s ballistic missile program. 

What they're saying:

  • President Trump said in a statement that his administration “will never allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon, nor will we allow Iran to endanger the rest of the world with a fresh supply of ballistic missiles and conventional arms."
  • Secretary of State Pompeo said at a press conference: “We will continue and expand our sanctions until Iran is willing to conclude a comprehensive negotiation that addresses the regime’s malign behavior. We are always open to diplomacy with Iran, but Iran must respond with diplomacy, not with more violence. Until then, maximum pressure will continue."
  • Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said at the press conference that U.S. forces in the region are ready to respond to any Iranian aggression.

The other side: Iran's foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif dismissed the new sanctions at a Council on Foreign Relations event on Monday as "nothing new," adding: "The U.S. has exerted all the pressure it could on Iran. It had hoped it would bring our population to its knees. It didn't."

What’s next: It's still unclear how effective the new sanctions will be and whether the U.S. will be successful in maintaining the arms embargo on Iran.

  • Most world powers, including U.S. allies France, Germany and the U.K., announced they do not recognize the snapback of sanctions and believe the U.S. move has no legal effect.
  • Moreover, Russia and China are not expected to be deterred by the new sanctions and are likely to sell the Iranians almost any weapons they wish.
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