WASHINGTON •The United States has imposed fresh sanctions on Iran in the wake of an escalating Twitter war over a missile test launch by Teheran.
In a statement late last night Singapore time, the US Treasury Department published a list of 13 individuals and 12 entities facing new restrictions, some for contributing to proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and others for links to terrorism. The entities include companies based in Iran, the United Arab Emirates, Lebanon and China.
The showdown raised concerns that it could jeopardise the landmark international nuclear accord that US President Donald Trump has called “the worst deal ever negotiated”.
The new sanctions were announced after a tweet from Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif yesterday, in which he said: “Iran unmoved by threats as we derive security from our people. Will never initiate war, but we can only rely on our own means of defence.”
Mr Trump tweeted early yesterday that “Iran is playing with fire” and “they don’t appreciatehowkind President (Barack)Obamawas to them. Not me!”
This is not the first time that an inexperienced person has threatened Iran.
MR ALI AKBAR VELAYATI, a senior adviser to Iran’s supreme leader
When asked whether his administration’s tough new posture could mean a military strike, Mr Trump answered: “Nothing’s off the table.”
Instead, the White House quickly had the Treasury Department announce the sanctions, which fellow Republicans had said earlier that they would back.
The new sanctions are not directed at Iran’s nuclear programme and would not directly affect the agreement forged under the Obama administration that eased restrictions in exchange for Iran’s promise not to develop nuclear weapons, two people familiar with US strategy said on Thursday.
On its part, Iran has urged the US not to overreact to the tests. Defence Minister Hossein Dehghan insisted they were part of Iran’s ongoing defence programme and were not illegal, according to the Tasnim news agency.
That followed a White House broadside on Wednesday, in which National Security Adviser Michael Flynn warned that Iran is “on notice” over the test launch. He also cited Iran’s support of rebels seeking to overthrow a US-backed government in Yemen.
Iran said on Thursday that it would not yield to “useless” US threats from “an inexperienced person” over its missile programme. “This is not the first time that an inexperienced person has threatened Iran,” Mr Ali Akbar Velayati, a senior adviser to Iran’s supreme leader, was quoted by Reuters as saying. “Iran does not need permission from any country to defend itself.”
Speaking to reporters, Mr Velayati brushed off what he called Mr Trump’s “baseless ranting”, and pledged that missile tests would continue as Iran sees fit.
The exchange surrounding the missile test has been the most substantive between the two countries since Mr Trump took office two weeks ago, and suggests that each nation is willing to escalate tension at the outset.
BLOOMBERG, THE WASHINGTON POST, REUTERS