WASHINGTON: The US slapped fresh sanctions on Iran Tuesday over its ballistic missile program, just hours after Washington admitted the Islamic Republic was complying with a landmark nuclear deal signed two years ago.
Iran’s parliament retaliated by voting for extra funding for the missile program, a move that speaker Ali Larijani said would show the Americans that Iran “will resist them with all its power.”
The heightened tensions came after President Donald Trump was forced to back off from a key campaign promise to withdraw from a 2015 nuclear accord with Tehran, which eased sanctions in return for limiting its ability to produce material for atomic weapons.
Trump had described it as “the worst deal ever” and accused Iran of continuing to back terrorism in the Middle East. But on Monday the White House admitted that the Islamic Republic was sticking to the nukes agreement.
It noted, however, that while Iran might be meeting its 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 State Department said it “remains deeply concerned about Iran’s malign activities across the Middle East which undermine regional stability, security, and prosperity.”
It cited Iran’s support for Hezbollah, Hamas, the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Huthi rebels in Yemen fighting a US-backed coalition led by Saudi Arabia.
In addition to earmarking an additional $260 million for its ballistic missile program, Iran’s parliament also agreed Tuesday to allot a similar amount to the Revolutionary Guards’ foreign operations wing, the Quds Force, accused by Washington of fomenting unrest across the region.
The Pentagon has also repeatedly voiced concern over a string of high-profile incidents in waters off Iran involving Iranian vessels.
It has accused the Revolutionary Guards of conducting risky maneuvers around US warships in the Gulf, some of which resulted in the Americans firing warning shots.
“These sanctions target procurement of advanced military hardware, such as fast attack boats and unmanned aerial vehicles, and send a strong signal that the United States cannot and will not tolerate Iran’s provocative and destabilizing behavior,” said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.
Washington is also concerned about the fate of Xiyue Wang, a 37-year-old Chinese-American researcher at Princeton University who was recently sentenced to 10 years in Iranian prison.
Iran condemned new American sanctions on its ballistic missile programme and responded with its own sanctions against Americans, official news agency IRNA reported.
The foreign ministry condemned “the United States’ worthless act of imposing illegal sanctions” against people linked to the programme, IRNA reported.
Tehran “will in turn apply new sanctions against American people and entities that have acted against the Iranian people and other Muslim peoples of the region,” it said