New Trump sanctions target Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei

US president says supreme leader is ‘ultimate responsible’ for regime

US president Donald Trump
(Image credit: Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images)

Donald Trump has signed off “hard-hitting” sanctions against Iran which target the country's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

The US president’s move comes as tensions escalate between the two countries after Tehran shot down an American drone last week.

Trump said that he was targeting Ayatollah Khamenei, Iran's highest authority, because he is “ultimately responsible for the hostile conduct of the regime”.

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

He added: “These measures represent a strong and proportionate response to Iran’s increasingly provocative actions.”

The Times says the move sees Washington “turn the sanctions screw” on Tehran’s leaders, but according to The Guardian their impact on an “already heavily-sanctioned country” could be “limited”.

The BBC disagrees, saying that targeting Khamenei means the sanctions are “significant” because he has the “ultimate say in Iran's politics and military”. But the New Yorker warns that “sanctioning Iran’s supreme leader” could easily “backfire”.

Speaking in the Oval Office of the White House, Trump insisted: “We do not seek conflict with Iran or any other country,” adding: “I can only tell you we cannot ever let Iran have a nuclear weapon. They are the number one sponsor of terror anywhere in the world.”

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said American leaders “despise diplomacy”. Taking to Twitter, Zarif also accused the Trump administration of having a "thirst for war".

Iran's UN ambassador says that growing tensions are “very dangerous” and that talks with US are impossible amid the escalation of sanctions.

Tehran’s state-backed press agency IRNA has dismissed the move as a sign of “America's desperation”. The UN Security has urged both sides to remain calm and stick to diplomacy.

Speaking to CNN, Mark Dubowitz, CEO of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said that the Ayatollah is responsible for an “estimated $200 billion corporate empire” that includes hundreds of companies with interests in agriculture, energy, real estate and other sectors.

Therefore, he argued, it would be a “big mistake” to think these sanctions are “just symbolic”.

There could be more measures to come within days. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin broke with the custom of not commenting on future sanctions actions when he told the media that Trump had already ordered him to add Iran's foreign minister Javad Zarif to the US governments sanction's list “later this week”.

Continue reading for free

We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.

Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.