The U.S. will impose new sanctions on Iran while President Donald Trump remains in office, according to a senior American diplomat who described speculation over military action against the Islamic Republic as “garbage.”
Elliott Abrams, the State Department’s Special Representative for Iran and Venezuela, declined to specify which Iranian entities would be targeted or when penalties were likely in an interview with Bloomberg TV.
The U.S. has ratcheted up its pressure on Iran since Trump left the 2015 multi-party deal that offered sanctions relief in return for caps on the Iranian nuclear program.
Iran’s oil exports were slashed while its banking system and military have also been sanctioned as Washington and its Arab Persian Gulf allies put countering Tehran’s ambitions in the Middle East at the center of their foreign policy.
This week the U.S. Treasury penalized six companies and four individuals that facilitated the procurement of U.S.-origin electronic components for the Iranian military.
Abrams spoke a day after United Nations inspectors confirmed Iran continued to add to its stockpile of enriched nuclear material, a breach of the 2015 deal prompted by the U.S. exit.
Iran denies it ever pursued nuclear weapons research and has continued working with inspectors, even after the U.S. abandoned its commitments.
Yet since May 2018, the country’s store of low-enriched uranium has risen eight-fold, complicating pledges by President-elect Joe Biden to re-enter the agreement if Iran returns to compliance.
Abrams dismissed concerns that Trump may be planning to launch military action against Iran, saying the so-called “maximum pressure” economic strategy had created “an enormous amount of leverage” for the next occupant of the White House.
The New York Times has pondered whether Trump’s post-election appointment of Pentagon officials who back more aggressive action against Iran made covert or overt military action more likely in the remaining weeks of his presidency.
“There will be a negotiation no matter who’s president of the United States in 2021,” Abrams said of relations with Iran. He declined to answer questions over the handover of power following the Nov. 3 election as Trump refuses to concede.