From the Peking Press:
The United States took its first steps in backing up tough talk about Iran, slapping new sanctions on 13 individuals and 12 entities linked to Tehran’s ballistic missile program and its proxies across the Middle East.
Friday’s actions came as a result of what U.S. officials described as an ongoing process that included consultations with key U.S. agencies and also U.S. allies.
But officials said the trigger was Iran’s January 29 test of a ballistic missile, which was ‘in defiance’ of a U.N. resolution barring Iran from engaging in such tests.
A second senior administration official described Sunday’s launch as ‘a clear threat to regional security.’
The new sanctions are a culmination of the Trump administration’s increasingly aggressive stance with Tehran, following a presidential campaign in which then-candidate Trump said he was willing to rip up the nuclear deal former President Barack Obama and other world leaders negotiated with Iran.
Earlier this week, Trump’s national security adviser, retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn announced the U.S. was “officially putting Iran on notice.”
On Friday, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer continued with the tough talk.
“President Trump is going to do everything he can to make sure Iran is stayed in check,” Spicer said. “He is going to continue to be tough on Iran in a way that wasn’t done in the past eight years.”
Spicer also reiterated that the president was not taking any options off the table although “he understands the impact” of resorting to military action.
Earlier Friday, Trump took to Twitter to warn Iran directly.
“Iran is playing with fire – they don’t appreciate how ‘kind’ President Obama was to them,’ Trump tweeted. “Not me!”
Iran’s foreign minister, Javad Zarif, also took to Twitter Friday to respond.
‘Iran unmoved by threats as we derive security from our people,’ he tweeted. ‘We’ll never initiate war, but we can only rely on our own means of defense.’
All of the entities and individuals targeted by the new sanctions aimed at Iran are located overseas. But a senior administration official said all have ‘touch points’ in the United States, whether they involve trying to acquire U.S.-made materials or interactions with the U.S. financial system.
Officials also said the sanctions did not impact U.S. compliance with the Iran nuclear deal and that none of the individuals or entities had previously been sanctioned under the administration of Barack Obama.
While much of the concern has focused on Iran’s ballistic missile program, Trump administration officials have voiced significant concerns about Iran’s use of proxy forces across the Middle East, and in Yemen in particular.
Iranian-backed Houthi rebels have been engaged in a bloody civil war in Yemen, and earlier this week attacked a Saudi warship, killing two crew members.
A U.S. senior administration official said Washington was increasingly concerned about freedom of navigation in the waters off the coast of Yemen, including the Bab el-Mandeb Strait, putting much of the onus on Iran.
‘Iran has heavy influence, continues to arm and support the Houthis,’ the official said.
And while the official said Iran was not responsible ‘for every tactical decision, Iran in its relationships with proxies through the region bears responsibility for these groups that they are closely entwined with.’
‘New day in U.S.-Iran relations’
Already, the U.S. appears to be backing up the concerns with action, sending the destroyer USS Cole to conduct patrols off the coast of Yemen.
The Trump administration’s first actions against Iran are meeting with the approval of the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
‘A coordinated, multi-faceted effort to push back against a range of illicit Iranian behavior is long overdue,’ Republican Sen. Bob Corker said in a statement. ‘The announcement makes clear that it is a new day in U.S.-Iran relations.’
Corker said he was especially encouraged after meeting earlier Friday with Trump’s national security adviser, retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn.
Earlier this week, Flynn announced in the White House briefing room that the U.S. was ‘officially putting Iran on notice.’
White House Correspondent Cindy Saine, Congressional Correspondent Michael Bowman and Senior Diplomatic Correspondent Steve Herman contributed to this report.
New US Sanctions on Iran Could Be Just the Start
VOA Saturday 4th February, 2017, Peking Press
Iran, 31 January 2017
US says missile test carried out in Semnan on Sunday, but Tehran insists its programme is not covered by nuclear deal.
Iran’s missile tests do not involve rockets with nuclear warheads and are not part of a historic deal signed two years ago by world powers, according to the country’s foreign minister. Javad Zarif affirmed his position on Tuesday, a day after White House spokesman Sean Spicer said the United States was “aware that Iran fired a missile” and was “looking into the exact nature of it”.”The missile issue is not part of the nuclear deal.”Reiterating Iran’s traditional stance, Zarif said that his country’s missiles are “not designed for the capability of carrying a nuclear warhead” Iran is only using ballistic missiles to defend itself, he added. Report warns Trump against scrapping Iran nuclear deal.
A White House official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said a ballistic missile test was carried out on Sunday from a site near Semnan, east of Tehran, according to the Reuters news agency.
The medium-range ballistic missile reportedly exploded after 1,010km, the official said, adding that the last time this type of test was test launched was in July 2016.
The reported test drew wide condemnation as many feared it could be in violation of a UN resolution adopted in 2015 prohibiting ballistic missile tests designed to deliver a nuclear warhead.
The resolution was part of the nuclear deal between Iran and the US, UK, France, China, Russia and Germany.
US Senator Bob Corker, chairman of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he would work with politicians and President Donald Trump’s administration to hold Iran accountable.
Meanwhile, the European Union called on Tehran to “refrain from activities which deepen mistrust”. EU foreign policy spokeswoman Nabila Massrali said that such a test was “inconsistent” with the UN resolution.
Israel also condemned the test.
During the US election campaign, Trump branded the nuclear agreement “the worst deal ever negotiated”, telling voters that he would either rip it up or seek a better deal.
Speaking from Tehran, France’s Ayrault voiced “concern” over the reported test.
“France has expressed its concern at Iran’s continuation of its ballistic missile tests on several occasions,” Ayrault said. He said the continued tests are “contrary to the spirit” of the Security Council resolution.
But, he added: “We harbour real concerns about the US administration’s attitude towards this agreement.”
In a similar vein, Zarif said that he hoped Iran’s defense programme “is not used by the new US administration … as a pretext to create new tensions”.
After an urgent UN Security Council meeting on Tuesday, called by Washington, the US envoy to the UN said the test was “absolutely unacceptable”. “We have confirmed that Iran did have a medium-size missile launch testing,” said Nikki Haley.
“That is more than enough to be able to deliver a nuclear weapon,” she said, adding that the US “is not naive”.
Al Jazeera’s Dorsa Jabbari, reporting from Iran’s capital, Tehran, said Iranian officials insist that the country has complied with the restrictions imposed in the deal.
Meanwhile, Russia said the test by Iran does not contravene the UN resolution.
“Such actions, if they took place, do not breach the resolution,” Sergei Ryabkov, the Russian deputy foreign minister, told Interfax news agency, saying demands for UN talks were aimed at “heating up the situation”.
Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies.
Related Article: i24news, France; Iranian official: We’ll fire missile on Tel Aviv if Americans ‘make mistake’