The Trump administration has sanctioned 18 individuals and entities alleged to have supported Iran's ballistic missile program. A day earlier, the US affirmed that Iran was complying with its nuclear agreement.
The US State Department on Tuesday cited Iran's ballistic missile program and support for terrorist groups as reasons to impose new sanctions against Islamic Republic.
State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert voiced US concerns over "Iran's malign activities across the Middle East which undermine regional stability, security, and prosperity." The sanctions, she said, were "in response to these continued Iranian threats."
Among those sanctioned were key backers of Iran's military and Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. According to reports, two of the targeted companies were directly involved in missile programs, while another was employed by the Iranian government for military procurement. A Turkish-based provider of naval equipment and Chinese network delivering electronic equipment were also listed.
"The United States will continue to use sanctions to target those who lend support to Iran's destabilizing behavior and, above all, the United States will never allow the regime in Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon," Nauert said.
US Treasury welcomes sanctions
In a separate statement, the Treasury Department said that one of the sanctioned firms had "orchestrated the theft of US and Western software programs" and sold them on to Iran's government.
The sanctions "send a strong signal that the United States cannot and will not tolerate Iran's provocative and destabilizing behavior," Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said. "This administration will continue to aggressively target Iran's malign activity, including their ongoing state support of terrorism, ballistic missile program, and human rights abuses."
Iran backs a number of groups and regimes engaged in direct conflict with US-backed forces. Those include Lebanon's Hezbollah, Hamas in Palestine, the Syrian regime under President Bashar al-Assad and the Yemeni Huthi rebels, who are currently fighting against an Arab coalition led by Saudi Arabia.
Trump sticking to nuclear deal, while finding other ways to strangle Tehran
The sanctions come just a day after the Trump administration told Congress that Iran was complying with its landmark nuclear deal, brokered in 2015 with the five UN veto powers, plus Germany. However, Washington had warned Tehran that it facing new sanctions for not following the spirit of the nuclear agreement.
During the presidential campaign, Trump lambasted the Iran nuclear agreement, describing it as "catastrophic" and vowing to tear it up.
Since then, however, it appears that White House officials have prompted the president to hold on to the deal while keeping hard line approach to Tehran's non-nuclear activities.
dm/rt (AP, Reuters, AFP, dpa)