US sanctions Khamenei, Iranian leadership, amid major push to gain international support for its Iran policy

The US issued new sanctions on Monday, targeting Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and five senior Iranian officers of the Revolutionary Guard.

WASHINGTON DC (Kurdistan 24) – The US issued new sanctions on Monday, targeting Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and five senior Iranian officers of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

In addition, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif is to be sanctioned later this week, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told journalists at the White House.

In announcing Monday’s sanctions, President Donald Trump noted that they follow “a series of aggressive behaviors by the Iranian regime in recent weeks,” including Thursday’s downing of a US drone.

Following that attack, Trump decided against a US military response, but on Saturday, he tweeted that “major” sanctions would be coming on Monday.

They were, indeed, announced on Monday. “The Supreme Leader of Iran is the one who ultimately is responsible for the hostile conduct of the regime,” Trump said, as he signed the executive order providing for the new penalties.

In addition, Mnuchin, noting that the US had already sanctioned Qasim Soleimani, head of the IRGC’s Qods Force, announced that sanctions would also be applied to three other IRGC officers: Alireza Tangsiri, head of the IRGC Navy, Amir Ali Hajizadeh, Commander of the IRGC’s Aerospace Force, and Mohammed Pakpour, head of the IRGC’s Ground Forces.

Five heads of the IRGC’s Naval Districts were also sanctioned.

On Saturday, Trump appeared to say that stopping Tehran’s nuclear program was the sole US objective in regard to Iran, seeming to put him at odds with his own Secretary of State who has articulated a broader agenda.

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Trump’s statement on Monday, however, made clear that while US demands on Iran include the nuclear issue, they also encompass its ballistic missile program, support for terrorism, as well as what Trump described as Tehran’s “fueling of foreign conflicts and belligerent acts directed against the United States and its allies.”

The new sanctions come as three senior US officials are holding discussions in the Middle East, aimed at mobilizing international support for Washington’s policy on Iran in advance of the G-20 meeting on June 28 and 29 in Osaka, Japan, where Trump will hold further meetings dealing with Iran.

On Monday, White House National Security Advisor John Boltonwas in Jerusalem, where he met with Nikolai Patrushev, Secretary of the Security Council of Russia, for discussions on “Ukraine, arms control, Venezuela, and other issues,” as Bolton tweeted.

On Tuesday, they will be joined by their Israeli counterpart, Meir Ben-Shabbat, for discussions on the Middle East. The objective of that meeting will be to persuade Russia to join the US and Israel “in reining in Iran,” The Wall Street Journal reported on Monday.

US and Israeli officials believe that significant disagreements have arisen between Tehran and Moscow, and Russia might be willing to use its influence in Damascus to persuade Syria to reduce Iran’s presence there, now that the civil war in that country is drawing to a close.

Patrushev is, ironically, among a group of Russian officials whom the US sanctioned following Moscow’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, the Journal noted.

Also on Monday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo paid a previously unscheduled visit to Saudi Arabia and the UAE, before heading on to India.

Pompeo saw both King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Riyadh, where he discussed the recent Iranian attacks on Gulf shipping, as well as US plans for a multinational force to ensure the safety of maritime traffic in the region. Trump wants other countries to help share the burden.

Pompeo then proceeded to the UAE, where he held a similar discussion with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

Pompeo denounced Sunday’s drone attack by Yemen’s Houthi rebels on Abha airport, a civilian facility in southwestern Saudi Arabia, that killed one person and injured over twenty.

“The regime has spent years funneling cash, weapons and Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps support to the Houthis,” Pompeo said. “With every attack conducted by an Iranian proxy, the regime tacks another day onto its forty-year track record of spreading death and chaos in the region, and beyond.”

Pompeo described his meetings in Saudi Arabia as “productive,” affirming that the US “will continue our pressure campaign until Iran stops its torrent of violence and meets diplomacy with diplomacy.”

In addition, Brian Hook, Special Representative for Iran and Senior Policy Advisor to the Secretary of State, is in the middle of a tour of Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Kuwait, Oman, and Bahrain, after which he will travel to Paris on June 27 to hold talks on Iran with his counterparts from Britain, France, and Germany in advance of the G-20 summit.