Trump suggests U.S. will stop protecting international shipping in Strait of Hormuz
Date: Monday, June 24, 2019
President Donald Trump on Monday leveled a spate of new sanctions against top Iranian leaders, intensifying the administration's punishing economic penalties on Tehran following a week of escalating tensions that nearly produced an American military strike against the Islamic Republic.
Trump, flanked in the Oval Office by Vice President Mike Pence and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, announced he would sign an executive order "imposing hard-hitting sanctions on the Supreme Leader of Iran and the office of the Supreme Leader of Iran and many others."
The action, the president said, "follows a series of aggressive behaviors by the Iranian regime in recent weeks,” including the shooting down of an U.S. Navy surveillance drone last Thursday and attacks on two tankers in the Gulf of Oman earlier this month. Iran has denied responsibility in the tanker attacks and claimed the American drone had violated Iranian airspace, an allegation the U.S. denies.
"We know of other things that were done also that were not good and not appropriate," Trump said. "The Supreme Leader of Iran is one who ultimately is responsible for the hostile conduct of the regime. He is respected within his country. His office oversees the regime's most brutal instruments.”
The president said the new U.S. sanctions “will deny the Supreme Leader and the Supreme Leader's office and those closely affiliated with him and the office access to key financial resources," and added that the measures "represent a strong and proportionate response to Iran's increasingly provocative actions."
"We will continue to increase pressure on Tehran until the regime abandons its dangerous activities and aspirations, including the pursuit of nuclear weapons, increased enrichment of uranium, engagement in and support for terrorism, fueling of foreign conflicts, and belligerent acts directed against the United States and its allies," Trump said.
"I look forward to the day when sanctions can be finally lifted and Iran can become a peaceful, prosperous and productive nation. That can go very quickly. It can be tomorrow. It can also be in years from now," the president added. "So I look forward to discussing whatever I have to discuss with anybody that wants to speak. In the meantime, who knows what’s going to happen, I can only tell that you we can not ever let Iran have a nuclear weapon. And it won’t happen."
Addressing reporters following Trump's remarks, Mnuchin said the sanctions targeting the Supreme Leader's office will "lock up literally billions of dollars more of assets." He also announced sanctions against three more senior Iranian military commanders and five naval districts' leaders.
"These sanctions are all very important for recent activities," Mnuchin said, warning that the U.S. will also slap sanctions on Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif "later this week."
Earlier Monday, Trump suggested that the American military may step back from securing the Strait of Hormuz for oil shipments and other international commerce, as the economically critical waterway has become the site of heightened brinkmanship between the U.S. and Iran.
“China gets 91% of its Oil from the Straight, Japan 62%, & many other countries likewise. So why are we protecting the shipping lanes for other countries (many years) for zero compensation,” Trump wrote on Twitter.
“All of these countries should be protecting their own ships on what has always been … a dangerous journey,” Trump continued. “We don’t even need to be there in that the U.S. has just become (by far) the largest producer of Energy anywhere in the world!”
The president added: “The U.S. request for Iran is very simple - No Nuclear Weapons and No Further Sponsoring of Terror!”
Recent Iranian acts of aggression have focused near the narrow sea passage connecting the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman. A U.S. Navy official said last Wednesday that a limpet mine used to partly destroy one of the vessels in the Gulf of Oman tanker attacks bore a striking resemblance to Iranian explosive devices, according to the Associated Press. And the U.S. military has asserted that the American surveillance drone was taken down in "an unprovoked attack” over international airspace above the Strait of Hormuz.
Trump confirmed last Friday that he called off a retaliatory strike on Iran, tweetingthat the planned military response and potential casualties were “not proportionate to shooting down an unmanned drone.”
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo appeared to undercut the president’s message Monday morning, writing on Twitter a half hour after Trump’s posts about his conversation with Saudi Arabia’s leader in the port city of Jeddah.
“Productive meeting with King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud today to discuss heightened tensions in the region and the need to promote maritime security in the Strait of Hormuz,” Pompeo tweeted. “Freedom of navigation is paramount.”
The U.S. imported 1.58 million barrels of petroleum per day from Persian Gulf countries in 2018, accounting for roughly 16 percent of all American petroleum imports, according to the federal Energy Information Administration.