Donald Trump promised a tougher approach to Iran, and this morning he delivered. Two days after national-security adviser Michael Flynn warned that the Trump administration would put Iran “on notice” for violating UN sanctions with a ballistic-missile test, the White House announced new sanctions on Tehran:
The Trump administration hit Iran with new sanctions Friday for test-firing a medium-range ballistic missile — an action that was viewed by the White House as being in defiance of a U.N. resolution.
Specifically, they targeted 13 people and a dozen entities, including “several networks and supporters of Iran’s ballistic missile procurement,” the U.S. Treasury Department said in a statement.
Also included are “five individuals and entities that are part of an Iran-based procurement network connected to Mabrooka Trading.”
Earlier today, Morning Joe noted the upcoming sanctions, and Trump’s tweet that presaged them:
It’s worth noting that the White House appeared to carefully craft these sanctions to avoid an explicit violation of the deal with Iran arranged by John Kerry and Barack Obama. They are targeted specifically at Iran’s missile program, a move that will help keep international partners invested in the nuclear agreement on board. It leaves Tehran in the position of having to decide whether to tear up the agreement themselves, or merely confine their actions to complaining about the sanctions. If it’s the former, Iran takes the heat for bailing on the agreement in international circles; it it’s the latter, Trump and his team can keep turning up the heat in all other areas.
The Treasury Department, which imposed the sanctions, made this point explicit:
The sanctions were imposed on several Iranian officials and entities involved in procurement of material for the missile testing, which the administration said is not part of the 2015 nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA.
“Iran’s continued support for terrorism and development of its ballistic missile program poses a threat to the region, to our partners worldwide, and to the United States,” said John Smith, acting director of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control. “Today’s action is part of Treasury’s ongoing efforts to counter Iranian malign activity abroad that is outside the scope of the JCPOA. We will continue to actively apply all available tools, including financial sanctions, to address this behavior.”
The question will soon come up at a UN Security Council meeting, which the group called shortly after the ballistic missile test. Reuters notes that UNSC resolution 1929 prohibits any activity related to missiles capable of bearing nuclear weapons:
According to U.N. Security Council resolution 1929: “Iran is prohibited from undertaking any activity related to ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear weapons and States are required to take all necessary measure to prevent the transfer of related technology or technical assistance.”
Iran will argue that they are not building ballistic missiles for offensive purposes, but that’s not going to be good enough under 1929, which specifically bars any missiles even capable of carrying nuclear weapons. It will be a first test for the UN Security Council to see whether it will enforce its own resolutions, or risk Trump going it alone instead. Watch Russia and China to see whether they’re interested in keeping Trump within the fold.
Update: Townhall’s reporter in the White House press corps, Katie Pavlich, notes that it’s not just the missile test that prompted the additional sanctions:
Spicer confirms sanctions aren't just a response to Iran missile test and attack on Saudi ship, but for continued funding of terrorism too
— Katie Pavlich (@KatiePavlich) February 3, 2017