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Trump tweets plan to stiffen economic sanctions on Iran after Saudi oilfield attacks

2019-09-18

President Trump tweeted that he will “substantially increase” economic sanctions against Iran following the weekend drone and missile attacks on Saudi Arabian oilfields.

I have just instructed the Secretary of the Treasury to substantially increase Sanctions on the country of Iran!

The announcement could indicate that Trump has decided not to respond militarily against Tehran as he had suggested in a previous tweet that asserted American forces were “locked and loaded" to take action.

Iran earlier warned the U.S. it will retaliate “immediately” if Tehran is targeted over a weekend attack on Saudi oil installations.Iran denies responsibility for the crippling attacks, which temporarily knocked about 5% of the world’s oil production offline.

Iran’s president and foreign minister reportedly also may not be able to attend next week’s high-level meetings at the United Nations because the U.S. has yet to issue them visas.

The U.N. meeting had been considered as an opportunity for direct talks between Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and President Donald Trump amid a summer of heightened tensions and attacks in the wake of America’s unilateral withdrawal from Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers a year ago.

However, such talks are increasingly unlikely in the wake of the recent attack in Saudi Arabia, U.S. accusations that Tehran was behind it and hardening comments from Iran. Yemen’s Iranian-backed Houthi rebels have claimed the attack in response to the Saudi-led war in Yemen, which has sparked the world’s worst humanitarian crisis and killed tens of thousands of people.

Iran sent a note through Swiss diplomats in Tehran on Monday, reiterating that Tehran denies being involved in the Saudi attack, IRNA reported. The Swiss have looked after American interests in Tehran for decades.

“If any action takes place against Iran, the action will be faced by Iran’s answer immediately,” IRNA quoted the note as saying. It added that Iran’s response wouldn’t be limited to the source of the threat, suggesting it would inflict damage beyond what it had suffered.

IRNA separately reported Wednesday that Iran’s first delegation for the annual U.N. event had not left Iran due to not having visas. Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was to travel to New York on Friday, with Rouhani following Monday, according to the agency.

As the host of the U.N.’s headquarters, the U.S. is mandated to offer world leaders and diplomats visas to attend meetings there. But as tensions have risen, the U.S. has put increasing restrictions on Iranians like Zarif. Since becoming Iran’s president in 2013, Rouhani has spoken each year at the General Assembly.

The U.S. State Department did not respond to requests for comment Wednesday.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is traveling to Saudi Arabia for meetings after Saturday’s attack, which hit a Saudi oil field and the world’s largest crude oil processing plant. The Saudi military planned to speak to journalists Wednesday in Riyadh to discuss their investigation “and present material evidence and Iranian weapons proving the Iranian regime’s involvement.”

With News wire services