By Pooya Stone
Donald Trump said Wednesday that he’d ordered Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to “substantially increase sanctions” imposed on Iran, after an attack on Saudi oil facilities that the White House blames on Iran.
Trump didn’t go into details about the move, but a former Treasury official said the US could target Iran with secondary sanctions that could stop European allies, who are still a part of the 2015 nuclear deal that Trump left last year, from shielding Iran from US sanctions.
The former official said: “France has been floating the $15b credit line and there’s no way I could see the Trump administration letting that happen now.”
At the start of the month, France proposed offering Iran $15b on credit until the end of the year, if Iran again started to comply with the nuclear deal, which they’ve openly breached three times in the past four months, but needs US approval to go ahead.
Iran denied being behind the attacks, which initially stopped at least 5% of global oil production and sent oil prices rising by up to 19%. The Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen took responsibility, but Saudi Arabia dismissed this as a cover-up.
A US official said the strikes originated in southwestern Iran, while three officials said the attack was more complex and sophisticated than initially thought, involving cruise missiles and drones.
Trump further said he’s not looking to meet Iranian President Hassan Rouhani at the UN in New York this month.
Some of Trump’s allies have urged more than sanctions, with Republican Senator Lindsey Graham saying that it’s “going to take something beyond sanctions to achieve deterrence” of Iran’s “aggressive behavior”.
On a related issue, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he wants to build a coalition of European and Arab partners to deter Iran after the attack on Saudi Arabia, which he called “an act of war”.
Pompeo said: “This is an attack of a scale we’ve just not seen before. The Saudis were the nation that was attacked. It was on their soil. It was an act of war against them directly.”
He also said the flight patterns and the weapons used in the attack indicate that Iran is to blame.
He said: “We also know that these are systems that the Iranians have not deployed anyplace else, that they have not deployed outside of the country, to the best of our knowledge.
We’ve seen no evidence that it’s come from Iraq. It could well have traveled over Kuwait, we’ve not seen that either.”