By Michael Hernandez
WASHINGTON (AA) - U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Wednesday he hopes a recent exchange of detainees with Iran leads to a "broader discussion," prior to announcing new sanctions on the Islamic Republic.
Pompeo told reporters at the State Department that Washington is working to "develop" the more comprehensive talks, stressing the Trump administration is "very focused on getting every" American detained in Iran back.
Those efforts, however, are likely to face even greater resistance after Pompeo announced new sanctions on an alleged weapons smuggling network working for the external operations branch of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, as well as UAE and Hong Kong-based general sales agents for Iran's Mahan Air.
The network has been working to send arms from Iran to Houthi rebels in Yemen, the Treasury Department alleged in a statement. Khedri Jahan Darya Co has been added to the Treasury's sanctions list, as well as its owner, Abdolhossein Khedri.
Maritime Silk Road LLC, another company owned by Khedri, is also being designated.
Separately, three sales offices for Mahan Air are being designated for allegedly working on behalf of the airline, which was blacklisted in 2011.
“The Iranian regime uses its aviation and shipping industries to supply its regional terrorist and militant groups with weapons, directly contributing to the devastating humanitarian crises in Syria and Yemen,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement. “Aviation and shipping industries should be vigilant and not allow their industries to be exploited by terrorists.”
Mahan Air is Iran's largest airline, and has been accused by the U.S. of ferrying weapons on behalf of the Iranian government to the Syrian regime.
Iran unveiled Sunday what it calls a $39 billion budget of "resistance" backed by a $5 billion Russian investment.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani reportedly said the budget was being designed to pushback on the downturn in the Iranian economy caused by U.S. sanctions. Iran's currency has plummeted as the Trump administration seeks to ramp up pressure on Iran after President Donald Trump chose to unilaterally withdraw in May 2018 the U.S. from the nuclear pact global powers struck with Tehran.
The new budget will "announce to the world that despite sanctions we will manage the country, especially in terms of oil," Rouhani told Iranian lawmakers, according to al-Jazeera.