A gas flare on an oil production platform in the Soroush oil fields is seen alongside an Iranian flag in the Persian Gulf, Iran, July 25, 2005..
WASHINGTON – Tensions between Washington and Tehran are intensifying after the Trump administration announced new sanctions targeting Iran’s ballistic-missile program on Friday.
The US issued the new penalties in response to several Iranian missile launches that international powers say are in violation of Iran’s obligations.
Iran responded forcefully, proceeding with a military exercise that further tested its missile radar capabilities.
Iran’s officials vowed to continue launching “roaring missiles,” which they characterized as defensive in nature.
And they targeted US President Donald Trump himself calling him “reckless” and inexperienced.
Trump said on Twitter that Iran was “playing with fire.” And, in a statement, US National Security Adviser Michael Flynn said Iran’s “belligerent and lawless” behavior across the Middle East had only increased since it agreed to a deal with six foreign nations meant to govern its nuclear program for more than a decade.
“The international community has been too tolerant of Iran’s bad behavior. The ritual of convening a United Nations Security Council in an emergency meeting and issuing a strong statement is not enough,” Flynn said.
“The Trump administration will no longer tolerate Iran’s provocations that threaten our interests,” he continued. “The days of turning a blind eye to Iran’s hostile and belligerent actions toward the United States and the world community are over.”
Flynn’s statement follows a similar threat on Thursday, in which he said the Trump administration intended to place Iran “on notice” that its actions would not go unpunished.
Historic US allies in the region such as Israel, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states have encouraged a tougher line on Iran for years. British Prime Minister Theresa May endorsed such a line in a speech to US lawmakers last month.
Reducing Iran’s “malign influence” in the Middle East,” she said, is a priority for the UK, “as we support our allies in the Gulf States to push back against Iran’s aggressive efforts to build an arc of influence from Tehran through to the Mediterranean.”
The new Treasury sanctions join areas that remain under sanctions even with the 2015 nuclear deal in place, such as the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and Iran’s ballistic-missile program.
“I would stress that these are just initial steps in response to Iranians’ provocative behavior and that we’ve been going through a deliberative process,” one senior administration official said of the new measures.
“Iran has a continuing operation throughout the region, continues to conduct and support through its own forces, like the IRGC and Quds Force, as well as its proxies – behavior that is not sustainable, not acceptable, and violates norms and creates instability in the region,” the official continued.
“Iran has to determine its response to our actions. Iran has a choice to make.”
Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control designated three networks totaling 25 individuals and entities, including the previously designated Aerospace Industries Organization and Shahid Hemmat Industrial Group – “central players in Iran’s ballistic- missile research, development and production activities,” the official said. OFAC also designated a key Lebanon- based IRGC Quds Force support network comprised of seven individuals and entities working with Hezbollah.
Finally, OFAC designated one individual for providing procurement and other services on behalf of the IRGC Quds Force.
Treasury officials say the new actions have no affect on the nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
Reuters contributed to this report.
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