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Iranian President Hasan Rouhani (L) and President Trump. Photo: Adem Altan/AFP/Getty Images; Mark Wilson/Getty Images

President Trump told reporters in the Oval Office on Friday that he had issued the "highest sanctions ever imposed on a country" on Iran's central bank.

The backdrop: His statement comes after he tweeted earlier this week that he had instructed Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to "substantially" increase sanctions against Iran. Beyond Trump's statement in the Oval, the administration has not released any further details.

Why it matters: Both Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the Saudis have blamed Iran for the attacks, though officials are still investigating. Iranian officials have warned the U.S. that they are prepared to respond to any attack from the U.S. or Saudi Arabia, the Washington Post reports.

The state of play: The Pentagon plans to release a report about the perpetrators of the Saudi oil attacks by Thursday.

  • Pompeo was meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Emirati Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed on Wednesday to discuss the attacks and "coordinate efforts against 'Iranian aggression,'" per Reuters.
  • Saudi Arabia has joined a "U.S.-led naval coalition to secure the Mideast's waterways," according to AP.

What he's saying: Pompeo ramped up his rhetoric after a flight to the Saudi Arabian city of Jeddah when he told reporters that Iran had committed an "act of war" as he again dismissed the claim by Yemen's Houthi rebels, who are backed by Iran, that they were behind the airstrikes.

"Were it the case that the Houthis’ fraudulent claim was accurate, were that true —it’s not — but were that true, it doesn’t change the fingerprints of the Ayatollah as having put at risk the global energy supply.  ... This was an Iranian attack."

The big picture: World leaders will gather at the UN General Assembly meeting in New York next week, where it was speculated that talks could be held between Trump and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to de-escalate tensions. Iran has since ruled out that possibility, accusing the U.S. and Saudi Arabia of spreading misinformation.

  • It's also unclear if Iranian officials will be present at all. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif is scheduled to leave this Friday, but he may not if U.S. visas aren't issued for the rest of his delegation, Zarif told Iran's Tasnim News Agency.

Go deeper:

Editor's note: This article has been updated to include Trump's comments in the Oval Office.

Go deeper

33 mins ago - Health

Fauci: COVID vaccine rollout needs to prioritize people of color

Anthony Fauci. Photo: Alex Wong via Getty Images

Infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci highlighted the need to address racial disparities in the COVID-19 vaccination process, per an interview with The New England Journal of Medicine on Wednesday.

What he’s saying: "I think that's the one thing we really got to be careful of. We don't want in the beginning ... most of the people who are getting it are otherwise, well, middle-class white people."

The Mischief Makers

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Several Republican and Democratic lawmakers are emerging as troublemakers within their parties and political thorns for their leadership.

Why it matters: We're calling this group "The Mischief Makers" — members who threaten to upend party unity — the theme eclipsing Washington at the moment — and potentially jeopardize the Democrats' or Republicans' position heading into the 2022 midterms.

2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Obama speechwriter fears Biden unity drive is one-sided

Cody Keenan (right) is shown heading to Marine One in December 2009. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

President Obama's former speechwriter says he's "preemptively frustrated" with President Biden's effort to find unity with Republicans.

What they're saying: Cody Keenan told Axios that Biden's messaging team has "struck all the right chords," but at some point "they're gonna have to answer questions like, 'Why didn't you achieve unity?' when there's an entire political party that's already acting to stop it."