US and Iran issue tit-for-tat sanctions over missile plan

WASHINGTON • The United States and Iran traded tit-for-tat sanctions on Tuesday over the Islamic republic's ballistic missile programme, just hours after Washington admitted that Teheran was complying with a landmark nuclear deal signed two years ago.

After the US announced its new sanctions, Iran hit back, calling them "worthless" and "illegal" and announcing its own sanctions "against (the) American people and entities that have acted against the Iranian people and other Muslim peoples of the region".

"The Americans... want to weaken the capabilities and strength of the Islamic regime," said General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, who heads the Revolutionary Guard Corps' aerospace wing and missile programme. "We propose reciprocal actions with a high cost."

Iran's Parliament also voted to authorise extra funding for the missile programme and the Revolutionary Guard's foreign operations wing, the Quds Force, which Washington accuses of fomenting unrest across the region.

The heightened tensions came after US President Donald Trump was forced to back off from a key campaign promise to withdraw from a 2015 nuclear accord with Teheran, which eased sanctions in return for limiting its ability to produce material for atomic weapons.

On Monday, the White House admitted that Iran was sticking to the nuclear agreement, but noted that while the country might be meeting requirements on paper, it was "unquestionably in default of the spirit" of the accord.

In announcing the new sanctions against 18 individuals and entities in Iran, the US State Department said it "remains deeply concerned about Iran's malign activities across the Middle East which undermine regional stability, security, and prosperity".

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said he would make his own complaints about US non-compliance when representatives of the five nuclear powers - Britain, China, France, Russia and the US - plus Germany meet in Vienna tomorrow to take stock of the deal.

Mr Zarif accused the Trump administration of failing to lift sanctions in line with the deal, in an effort to "poison the international atmosphere". He added: "I think the international community has read this very loud and clear and continues to deal with Iran without much attention to this theatre which is being played."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 20, 2017, with the headline 'US and Iran issue tit-for-tat sanctions over missile plan'. Print Edition | Subscribe