The Trump administration hit Iran with new sanctions Friday following the test-firing of a medium-range ballistic missile, an action the White House says is in defiance of a U.N. resolution.
“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 E. Smith, acting director of the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control.
The sanctions targeted three networks comprising 13 people and a dozen entities including a group affiliated with the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps working with the terrorist group Hezbollah. The Trump administration maintains that none of these designations violate the Iran nuclear deal.
“Iran has a choice to make. We are going to continue to respond to their behavior in an ongoing way at an appropriate level to continue to pressure them to change their behavior,” a senior administration official told NBC News.
The Obama administration previously issued similar unilateral sanctions in response to both Sunday’s ballistic missile tests and Iran’s continued sponsoring of terrorist activity.
American U.N. Amb. Nikki Haley told reporters Tuesday the launch was “absolutely unacceptable.”
“We are not going to show a blind eye to these things that happen. We’re gonna act, we’re gonna be strong, we’re gonna be loud and we’re gonna do whatever it takes to protect the American people and the people across the world.”
It also came on the heels of a letter to President Trump from a bipartisan group of 20 senators calling for “full enforcement of existing sanctions and the imposition of additional sanctions on Iran for its ballistic missile program are necessary.”
Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tennessee, who co-authored the letter with Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Maryland, told MSNBC “they need to be put on notice.”
“I think what happened over the weekend was a wake-up call,” he said.
But Corker was also quick to add that “it’s too early to talk about military options.”
“I do think, on the other hand, when they threaten with â when they threaten us in other ways,” he said. “Let’s move away from the nuclear agreement when they have their naval vessels threatening ours and doing things, they need to be aware that there’s a new day and we’re not putting up with the things they’ve been doing in the region.”
Iran has confirmed that it test-fired a missile on Sunday but insisted it did not violate the nuclear deal because this missile is not capable of delivering a nuclear warhead. It was the first launch of its kind since Trump took office.
During the campaign, Trump took several stances on the 2015 Iran nuclear containment deal signed by former President Barack Obama and other world leaders. At some points, Trump vowed to strictly police the agreement. At others, he threatened to tear it up.
But of late, Trump â a harsh critic of former-President Obama’s foreign policy â appears to be following his predecessor’s strategy of using economic sanctions to punish the Iranians as well as the Russians for overstepping in Ukraine.
Mark Dubowitz of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, who bitterly opposed the Iran deal, called Trump’s sanctions “a good start.”
“But the procurement networks they target can be easily reconstituted,” he said in a statement. “The Trump administration should adopt ideas promoted by Congress that sanction key nodes of Iran’s economy and the international companies involved in supporting Tehran’s missile program. Unless the Iranian regime pays a severe price for its malign activities, they are unlikely to stop.”