National Security

Sweeping New Sanctions Hit Iran’s Nuclear and Ballistic Missile Programs

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo / Getty Images

The Trump administration on Monday announced an unprecedented set of new sanctions on Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile sectors.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was joined at the State Department by top Trump administration officials as they announced the new measures, which target Iran’s proliferation of nuclear materials used to feed its atomic weapons program. The sanctions also seek to restrain Iran’s contested ballistic missile program, which has progressed in tandem with its nuclear program as the country seeks to construct a weapon capable of carrying a nuclear warhead.

The most far-reaching sanctions will target Iran’s Ministry of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics agency, as well as its leaders, for exporting arms to Venezuelan dictator Nicolas Maduro, who also was targeted by the new sanctions. The measures are aimed at stopping Iran from exporting arms across the globe, including to regional hotspots such as Yemen, Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq.

The new sanctions are being issued under a fresh executive order announced Monday by the White House enabling the United States to sanction Iranian government actors and those globally who have been identified as aiding Iran’s nuclear and missile programs. The move comes a month after the United States invoked a procedural mechanism at the United Nations that ordered the "snapback" of all global sanctions on Iran. Snapback took effect on Saturday. The unprecedented move was met with anger by European powers and Tehran’s allies, raising questions about whether the world will uphold the sanctions. Pompeo and senior Trump administration officials warned that they will not hesitate to sanction any country caught working with Iran.

"Now that virtually all U.N. sanctions have been reimposed on Iran, stakeholders worldwide are warned that the United States will aggressively use U.S. sanctions authorities to impose consequences for failures to comply with the snapped-back U.N. measures on Iran and ensure that Iran does not reap the benefits of U.N.-prohibited activity," the State Department said in announcing the new action.

To further tighten the noose on Iran’s nuclear program, the United States designated several Iranians who it says are "centrally involved in Iran’s uranium enrichment centrifuge operations." Among those sanctioned is Hamid Reza Ghadirian, group director at Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization. He was penalized due to his support for the "installation of advanced uranium enrichment centrifuges … that are used to increase Iran's enriched uranium stockpile."

Other new sanctions target individuals associated with Iran’s Nuclear Science and Technology Research Institute, which has manufactured the fuel needed to run the country’s nuclear reactors. This includes greater restrictions on Iran’s production of a nuclear byproduct known as heavy water, which could provide Iran with an alternative plutonium-based pathway to a bomb.

The Treasury Department also designated two Iranian military officials and several organizations aiding the country’s ballistic missile program. One such group, Shahid Hemmat Industrial Group, "is in charge of liquid-propellant ballistic missile development," according to information provided by the department.

Additionally, the Department of Commerce on Monday added five Iranian nationals to its "entity list for nuclear-related activities," which prevents them from importing materials that could aid the country's nuclear program.

President Trump, in a statement on the new sanctions, said the White House executive order paves the way for not just the reimposition of global sanctions, but new actions meant to stop Tehran's pursuit of a weapon.

"My actions today send a clear message to the Iranian regime and those in the international community who refuse to stand up to Iran," Trump said. "The United States will not allow the Iranian regime to further advance capabilities to directly threaten and terrorize the rest of the world."