It’s not clear how much of an impact the sanctions will have.
„The practical implications seem to be fairly limited,” said Ariane Tabatabai, an associate political scientist at the RAND Corp. and expert on the Middle East. „I’m seeing this as more of a political statement by the administration, a move that is very symbolic and that is designed to show that the United States is not willing to sit back and watch Iran as it escalates in the region.” Many of the Iranian individuals and entities named in Monday’s announcement are on other Trump administration sanctions lists, Tabatabai said. „Not to mention, many of them are cut off from the U.S. financial system” and don’t travel to the USA or even outside Iran, she said.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said he could not divulge the value of assets Iran has in the USA.
Mnuchin said the new measures would „lock up literally billions of dollars” in assets. He rejected the suggestion that the latest sanctions were symbolic, saying they would be „highly effective.”
In a statement, the Treasury Department said the United States could penalize „any foreign financial institution” that knowingly facilitates a monetary transaction with the newly designated individuals and entities. They risk being „cut off from the U.S. financial system,” the Treasury statement said.
The United States has already crippled Iran’s economy with a slew of other sanctions.
Pompeo meets Saudi rulers on Iran crisis
Pompeo sets out to build global coalition against Iran
•WASHINGTON (AP) — Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he wants to build a global coalition against Iran during urgent consultations in the Middle East, following a week of crisis that saw the United States pull back from the brink of a military strike on Iran.Pompeo spoke Sunday as he left Washington for Saudi Arabia, followed by the United Arab Emirates, Sunni Arab allies that are alarmed by Shiite Iran’s increasing assertiveness and are working to limit its influence in the region. His stops in Jeddah and Abu Dhabi were hastily arranged late last week as additions to a trip to India from where he will join President Donald Trump in Japan and South Korea. But they were not announced until immediately before his departure in a sign of fast-moving and unpredictable developments.”We’ll be talking with them about how to make sure that we are all strategically aligned, and how we can build out a global coalition, a coalition not only throughout the Gulf states, but in Asia and in Europe, that understands this challenge as it is prepared to push back against the world’s largest state sponsor of terror,” Pompeo said about Iran.But even as Pompeo delivered his tough talk, he echoed President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence in saying the U.S. is prepared to negotiate with Iran, without preconditions, in a bid to ease tensions. Those tensions have been mounting since Trump last year withdrew the U.S. from a global nuclear deal with Iran and began pressuring Tehran with economic sanctions. A fresh round of Iran sanctions is to be announced Monday in a bid to force the Iranian leadership into talks.”They know precisely how to find us,” Pompeo said.It was a week of topsy-turvy pronouncements on U.S. policy toward Iran that careened between the bellicose, the conciliatory and back again after Iran shot down an American military drone and boasted it would not bow to Washington’s pressure.Trump initially said Iran had made a „very big mistake” and that it was „hard to believe” that shooting down the drone on Thursday was not intentional. He later said he thought it was an unintentional act carried out by a „loose and stupid” Iranian and called off retaliatory military strikes against Iran. On Saturday, Trump reversed himself and claimed that Iran had acted „knowingly.”But Trump also said over the weekend that he appreciated Iran’s decision to not shoot down a manned U.S. spy plane, and he opined about eventually becoming Iran’s „best friend” if Tehran ultimately agrees to abandon its drive to build nuclear weapons and he helps the country turn around its crippled economy.
Beijing (AFP) – China said Monday it will not allow discussion of Hong Kong at the G20 summit this week even as US President Donald Trump plans to raise the city’s mass protests during his meeting with President Xi Jinping.
The semi-autonomous city has been shaken by huge demonstrations this month with protesters demanding the withdrawal of a bill that would allow extraditions to the Chinese mainland.
Trump has weighed in on Hong Kong’s worst political unrest since its handover from Britain to China in 1997, saying he understood the reason for the protests and hoped demonstrators can „work it out with China”.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo later said Trump would discuss Hong Kong with Xi at the Group of 20 summit, which is taking place in Osaka, Japan, on Friday and Saturday.
But Chinese assistant foreign minister Zhang Jun said the G20 is a forum to focus on global economic issues.
Xi and Trump have agreed to hold bilateral talks focusing on the US-China trade war during the summit.
„I can tell you with certainty that the G20 will not discuss the Hong Kong issue and we will not allow the G20 to discuss the Hong Kong issue,” Zhang said at a press briefing previewing Xi’s attendance at the summit.
„Hong Kong affairs are purely China’s internal affairs and no foreign country has the right to intervene,” he said, noting that the city is a special administrative region of China.
– New rally for G20 –
The international finance hub has been rocked by its worst political unrest in nearly 50 years.
Millions have marched this month to oppose the hugely unpopular extradition law, which has since been postponed in the face of the huge public backlash. Police also fired tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse demonstrators earlier in the month.
The demonstrations have since morphed into a wider movement against city leader Carrie Lam and Beijing after years of sliding political freedoms.
Protest groups in Hong Kong on Monday announced plans to hold a new rally on Wednesday evening, directly aimed at the G20 leaders who will begin arriving in Japan the following day.
„In holding this rally, we are facing the world, posing several questions to the leaders of 20 countries: Do Hong Kongers deserve democracy? Should Hong Kongers have democracy? Can Hong Kongers implement our democratic system yet?” Jimmy Sham, from the Civil Human Rights Front, which has organised the recent mass protests, told reporters.
DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) — Five underwater pipelines have been damaged and put out of order after a sabotage attack off the coastal town of Banias, Syria’s oil ministry said Sunday.
The damage was discovered after divers checked to see what was behind an oil leakage, the ministry said.
The ministry gave no further details about the attack saying that the damage will be fixed within hours, by its experts.
It said Oil Minister Ali Ghanem visited the area and met with engineers over the „terrorist attack.”
Banias is home to one of Syria’s two oil refineries. The other is in the central city of Homs.
Syria has been mostly relying on oil shipments through tankers to its Mediterranean coast.
Syria suffered recently from fuel shortages that were largely the result of Western sanctions on Syria and renewed U.S. sanctions on its ally Iran.
Syria produced 350,000 barrels per day before the country’s conflict began in 2011 and exported more than half of it. Now it is down to around 24,000 barrels a day, covering only a fraction of domestic needs.
Muscat (AFP) – The sultanate of Oman denied Monday that it had sent a message from the United States to Iran after the Islamic republic shot down a US drone in the Gulf.
„The reports that have been circulating in the media on the sultanate delivering an American message to the Iranian government about the incident… on June 20, 2019 are not true,” the Omani foreign ministry said on Twitter.
Media reports late last week said Muscat had sent a message to Tehran from US President Donald Trump, warning the Islamic republic of an impending American attack.
A military strike ordered in retaliation for the downing of the US drone was called off by Trump at the last minute.
Iran denied on Friday that it had received a message from Trump, and the United States followed suit with its own rebuttal on Sunday.
The US envoy for Iran, Brian Hook, said on a trip to Kuwait that Trump did not send a message to the Islamic republic.
Hook travelled to Oman on Monday where he met with leaders of the sultanate.
Riyadh (AFP) – A Yemeni rebel attack on a civilian airport in southern Saudi Arabia killed a Syrian national and wounded 21 other civilians Sunday, a Riyadh-led coalition said, in a new escalation following a series of strikes on the site.
The attack on Abha airport, which the coalition said left a McDonalds outlet at the site littered with shattered glass and damaged 18 vehicles, comes amid spiralling regional tensions with Iran.
The escalation of attacks by Iran-aligned Huthi rebels on Saudi cities threatens a hard-won UN-sponsored ceasefire deal for the Red Sea port city of Hodeida, war-ravaged Yemen’s main conduit for humanitarian aid.
„A terrorist attack by the Iran-backed Huthi militia on Abha airport… killed a Syrian resident and wounded 21 civilians,” the coalition said in a statement carried by the official Saudi Press Agency.
The wounded — from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, India and Bangladesh — also included three women and two children who had been taken to hospital for treatment, the coalition said.
It did not provide details on how the airport was attacked, but Iran-aligned Huthi rebels have repeatedly struck the civilian facility this month with drones and missiles.
Earlier on Sunday, the rebels’ Al-Masirah TV said they had targeted Abha and Jizan airports in the south of the kingdom with drones.
The coalition did not confirm the attack on Jizan airport.
Abha airport authorities said on Twitter that air traffic had resumed and operatons were running normally, without saying how long they were disrupted.
On June 12, a rebel missile attack on Abha airport wounded 26 civilians, drawing promises of „stern action” from the coalition.
Human Rights Watch denounced the strike as an apparent „war crime”, urging the Huthis to immediately stop all attacks on civilian infrastructure in Saudi Arabia.
The latest raids come amid spiralling regional tensions after Washington — a key ally of Riyadh — accused Iran of shooting down a US drone and carrying out attacks on oil tankers in the strategic Gulf of Oman.
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Britain and the US, in a joint statement published on Saudi state media on Sunday, voiced alarm over escalating regional tensions and the „dangers posed by Iranian destabilising activity”.