NPR for North Texas
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

U.S. Treasury Department Announces New Sanctions On Iran

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Tuesday that Iran's missile program is purely defensive. The U.S. announced new sanctions on individuals and companies it says support Iran's ballistic missile program.
Vahid Salemi
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Tuesday that Iran's missile program is purely defensive. The U.S. announced new sanctions on individuals and companies it says support Iran's ballistic missile program.

Updated at 2 p.m. ET

The U.S. Treasury Department announced additional sanctions on Iran on Friday, less than a week after a ballistic missile test prompted the Trump administration to accuse Iran of violating an international a weapons agreement.

The newly announced sanctions target people and businesses the U.S. government says support Iran's ballistic missile program and its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force, according to a Treasury Department statement. They are in line with previous sanctions, implemented over what then-President Barack Obama called Iran's "violations of human rights, for its support of terrorism and for its ballistic missile program."

The acting director of the Treasury unit in charge of sanctions, John Smith, said the latest sanctions do not violate the international nuclear deal reached with Iran in 2015, which required Iran to scale back its nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of some economic sanctions.

A top Treasury Department official tells NPR's Michele Kelemen that the actions are part of the U.S. efforts to counter Iranian "malign activity abroad."

The public text of the sanctions lists 12 companies and 13 individuals, blocking assets and prohibiting U.S. citizens from dealing with them. Among the individuals, four are listed as Iranian citizens, two are Lebanese, one is Chinese, and one holds a passport from the island nation of St. Kitts and Nevis. It also announced changes to previous, unrelated sanctions on a 14th individual.

The businesses are based both inside and outside Iran.

According to the Treasury Department, the sanctions target:

"several networks and supporters of Iran's ballistic missile procurement, including a critical Iranian procurement agent and eight individuals and entities in his Iran- and China-based network, an Iranian procurement company and its Gulf-based network, and five individuals and entities that are part of an Iran-based procurement network."

Hours before the sanctions were announced, President Trump addressed Iran in a tweet, writing, "Iran is playing with fire — they don't appreciate how 'kind' President Obama was to them. Not me!"

Iran's foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, tweeted an hour later that "we will never use our weapons against anyone, except in self-defense."

While U.S. and Iranian officials have both stated that the missile test did not violate the terms of the 2015 nuclear deal, the U.S. contends that it did violate a side agreement governing conventional weapons.

On Friday, the U.S. State Department released a statement saying that it believed the test was "inconsistent with UN Security Council Resolution 2231."

That resolution, which replaced an outright prohibition on missile tests, used language calling upon Iran "not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such ballistic missile technology," as The Two-Way reported.

National Security Adviser Mike Flynn said a day later that former President Barack Obama had gone too easy on Iran, but that "as of today, we are officially putting Iran on notice."

Flynn also listed the administration's grievances with Tehran, including its test of a ballistic missile and what he said were attacks by proxy forces in Yemen on U.S. and Middle Eastern ships, as we reported.

One of the incidents he appeared to be referring to occurred in October 2016, when U.S. Navy ships off Yemen's southwestern coast came under missile attacks twice in four days.

According to the Pentagon, the missiles came from an area controlled by Houthi forces, who are fighting against the government of Yemen and who the U.S. government says are backed by the Iranian government, which is supplying weapons to the rebel group.

But it was unclear who ordered October's missile launches, as NPR's Philip Ewing reported. Houthi leaders denied the attacks, and Tehran has denied U.S. accusations that Iran is supporting Houthi forces. Nonetheless, the U.S. carried out airstrikes against what the Pentagon said were radar installations in Houthi-controlled areas.

In December, Congress extended U.S. sanctions against Iran originally imposed in 1996 until 2026.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit

Rebecca Hersher (she/her) is a reporter on NPR's Science Desk, where she reports on outbreaks, natural disasters, and environmental and health research. Since coming to NPR in 2011, she has covered the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, embedded with the Afghan army after the American combat mission ended, and reported on floods and hurricanes in the U.S. She's also reported on research about puppies. Before her work on the Science Desk, she was a producer for NPR's Weekend All Things Considered in Los Angeles.