US Increases Sanctions on Iran, Pledges Troops to Bolster Saudi Defenses after Attack

US President Donald Trump is weighing his options on Iran. Illustrative photo, edited for size. Official White House photo by Shealah Craighead.

The United States responded to the Iranian attack on Saudi Arabia’s oil industry on Friday, expanding sanctions on Iranian financial institutions and pledging troops to bolster the Saudi’s air and missile defense. “As the president has made clear, the United States does not seek conflict with Iran. That said, we have many other military options available should they be necessary,” US Secretary of Defense Dr. Mark Esper told reporters on Friday announcing the military plans, according to a transcript posted to the US Department of Defense website.

Esper said the troops, which would be “defensive in nature and primarily focused on air and missile defense”, would help protect the world’s oil supply and “send a clear message that the United States supports our partners in the region.”

The US action comes after drone and missile attacks—which the US has repeatedly said came from Iran—struck the Saudi oil industry. It marks the latest escalation by Iran in a summer full of aggression, with Esper noting Iran has already attacked commercial shipping, seized a British oil tanker and shot down an American unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV).

The sanctions, meanwhile, targeted entities including Iran’s Central Bank and its National Development Fund. “Iran’s brazen attack against Saudi Arabia is unacceptable. Treasury’s action targets a crucial funding mechanism that the Iranian regime uses to support its terrorist network,” US Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin was quoted as saying in a report published on the Treasury website.

“…Iran’s Central Bank and the National Development Fund were ostensibly intended to safeguard the welfare of the Iranian people, but have been used instead by this corrupt regime to move Iran’s foreign currency reserves for terrorist proxies.”

The US State Department, in their own press release on the sanctions, made it clear whom the US blames for the attack. “In a failed attempt to disrupt the global economy, the Islamic Republic of Iran attacked the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. This act of aggression was sophisticated in its planning and brazen in its execution. Regardless of transparent attempts to shift blame, the evidence points to Iran—and only Iran.”

The US is in the midst of a “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran, using sanctions and diplomacy in an effort to convince Iran to change its aggressive behavior. The US withdrew from the international Iran nuclear deal last year and continue to seek a revised and enhanced agreement that will better address Iran’s nuclear program and other threats.

Said the State Department press release, “Attacking other nations and disrupting the global economy has a price. The regime in Tehran must be held accountable through diplomatic isolation and economic pressure.

“Our campaign of maximum pressure will continue to raise costs on the Islamic Republic of Iran until it reverses its destabilizing policies across the Middle East and around the world.”

(By Joshua Spurlock,, September 22, 2019)

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