Trump says he’s sanctioning Iran’s national bank

President Trump announced Friday that he had sanctioned Iran’s national bank, calling them the “highest sanctions ever imposed on a country.”  

Trump made the comments to reporters during an Oval Office meeting with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison. The announcement comes two days after Trump said he had instructed the Treasury Department to increase sanctions on Iran following attacks on two oil facilities in Saudi Arabia. 

{mosads}The Trump administration has blamed Iran in the attacks, which took out roughly 5 percent of the global oil supply on Saturday.  

“These are the highest sanctions ever imposed on a country, we’ve never done it to this level. It’s too bad what’s happening with Iran, it’s going to hell,” Trump told reporters, saying Tehran is “practically broke.”

The Treasury Department said in a statement that it was sanctioning Iran’s central bank, Iran’s national development fund and Etemad Tejarate Pars Co., an Iran-based firm that U.S. officials said is used to conceal financial transfers for purchases by Iran’s defense ministry.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin joined Trump briefly in the Oval Office to announce the new sanctions on Friday. 

“We are continuing the maximum pressure campaign,” Mnuchin said. “This will mean no more funds going to the [Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps] or to fund terror, and this is on top of our oil sanctions and our financial institution sanctions.”

Trump indicated Friday that he hadn’t made a decision on whether he would take military action against Iran following the attacks, but spoke positively of showing “restraint.”

“The easiest thing I can do, OK go ahead, knock down 15 major things in Iran,” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office. “I could do that and it’s all set to go. But I’m not looking at doing that if I can.”

“I think it shows far more strength to do it the way we’re doing it,” he continued, adding that it demonstrates strength to show “a little bit of restraint.”

“Iran knows if they misbehave they’re on borrowed time,” Trump said.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has blamed Iran for attacks on two oil facilities in Saudi Arabia over the weekend, calling them an “act of war.” Trump, however, has appeared hesitant to definitely blame Tehran for the drone strikes, saying it appears Iran is responsible but that he would wait for a full U.S. intelligence assessment.

Iran has denied responsibility for the attacks, for which the Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen have claimed responsibility. Iran’s foreign minister warned that an attack on the country would escalate into “all-out war” following Pompeo’s remarks. Saudi Arabia has said that Iranian weapons were used in the attack but has stopped short of definitively blaming Tehran.

Trump has also been noncommittal as to whether he would pursue military action against Iran in the wake of the attacks, after first hinting at it on Sunday when he said the U.S. was “locked and loaded” following the drone strikes on the oil sites and waiting on confirmation from Saudi Arabia.

Trump told reporters Monday that he wanted to avoid war with Iran, while at the same time emphasizing the strength of the U.S. military.

On Wednesday he said was considering “many options” including the “ultimate option,” which he said was war.

“We’ll see what happens. We have many options that we’re considering. There are many options,” Trump told reporters while on a fundraising swing through California, as he stood next to his new national security adviser, Robert O’Brien.

“There’s the ultimate option and there are options that are a lot less than that,” the president continued.

The U.S. military was said to be briefing Trump Friday with several options to respond to Iran, including airstrike targets, and reportedly will warn him that military action against Iran could result in war.

Tensions between the U.S. and Iran have run high following Trump’s decision to withdraw from the six-country nuclear pact with Tehran brokered during the Obama administration, and escalated in recent months.

Still, Trump had left open the possibility of meeting Iranian President Hassan Rouhani at the upcoming United Nations Global Assembly (UNGA) and expressed optimism on Iran’s willingness to make a deal to ease the confrontation, saying economic sanctions have hurt the country badly.

The recent attacks, however, have seemed to jettison the possibility of a meeting at the UNGA next week.

Updated at 11:43 a.m.

Tags Donald Trump Iran Mike Pompeo Oil attacks sanctions Saudi Arabia Steven Mnuchin
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