ADDS DETAILS THROUGHOUT
By Michael Hernandez
WASHINGTON (AA) - U.S. President Donald Trump sanctioned Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and his office Monday amid bristling tensions with Iran.
"I think a lot of restraint has been shown by us – a lot of restraint – and that doesn’t mean we’re going to show it in the future," Trump said in the Oval Office as he signed the penalties into effect.
Asked specifically if the actions taken Monday were in response to Iran's downing of an American drone last week, Trump said the sanctions were "going to happen anyway."
The U.S. and Iran dispute the location of the aircraft when it was shot down by an Iranian surface-to-air missile. Iran insists the surveillance aircraft violated its airspace, a claimed denied by Washington which maintains it was in international airspace.
The sanctions on Khamenei and his office are set to "lock up" billion of dollars worth of assets, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told reporters at the White House shortly after Trump announced the actions.
In addition to Khamenei, the U.S. further sanctioned eight senior leaders of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, including the commanders of its air force and ground forces, and five naval district leaders.
Trump has instructed that Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif be sanctioned later this week, Mnuchin said.
Mnuchin said U.S. allies have not yet been consulted on the newest wave of Iran sanctions.
Tensions have been rising between the U.S. and Iran since May 2018, when Washington unilaterally withdrew from a landmark 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany and the EU.
The U.S. has since embarked upon a diplomatic and economic campaign to put pressure on Iran in order to renegotiate the agreement, as well as other Iranian activities Washington considers to be destabilizing.
As part of its campaign, the U.S. has reimposed sanctions on exports of Iranian crude oil, which have nosedived the Iranian economy.
Trump said Friday the U.S. was "cocked & loaded" to strike three Iranian sites in retaliation for Iran's downing of the U.S. drone, but he said he called off the attacks over concern they would have been a disproportionate response.
Roughly 150 Iranians would have been killed in the attacks, Trump said.
The U.S. has increased its military presence in the Middle East amid the heightened tensions, deploying a carrier strike force, bomber task force and Patriot missile battery to the region over alleged threats from Iran.
The Trump administration also announced last week it would be sending an additional 1,000 troops to the Middle East.