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Amid elevated tensions, Trump announces new sanctions on Iran

After tensions with Iran nearly resulted in U.S. airstrikes last week, President Trump has fired a different type of weapon, levying new economic sanctions specifically targeting the Islamic Republic’s supreme leader. At the same time, top U.S. officials pursued diplomatic measures while visiting the Middle East. But Iran said the U.S. is the aggressor. Nick Schifrin reports.

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  • Nick Schifrin:

    President Trump has fired a new salvo of sanctions at Iran, this time targeting the Islamic Republic's supreme leader.

    At the same time, the administration is pursuing a diplomatic offensive after Mr. Trump called off planned airstrikes last week.

    Today, America's top diplomat met with the two most powerful men in the Persian Gulf, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Emirati Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, and the national security adviser continued his trip to Israel, enhancing what the U.S. is calling an anti-Iran alliance.

    And the U.S. increased its pressure on Iran, with President Trump previewing its first-ever sanctions on Iranian supreme leader, Ali Khamenei.

  • President Donald Trump:

    Sanctions imposed through the executive order that I'm about to sign 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 support.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    The sanctions are a response to Iran's shooting down and displaying a U.S. surveillance drone last week, and what the U.S. calls Iranian mine strikes on tankers in the Gulf of Oman. Today, U.S. officials said they would appeal to Asian allies to help defend commercial tankers by creating a naval coalition designed to deter Iranian attacks in the waters through which 20 percent of the world's oil flows.

    Jonathan Cohen is the acting U.S. ambassador to the U.N.

  • Jonathan Cohen:

    Iran must understand that these attacks are unacceptable. It's time for the world to join us in saying so.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    President Trump also reportedly ordered two cyberattacks, one against the unit that organized the tanker strikes, and another that targeted Iranian missile command-and-control.

    Today, Iran's ambassador to the U.N., Majid Takht-Ravanchi, called the U.S. the aggressor.

  • Majid Takht-Ravanchi:

    You cannot start a dialogue with somebody who is threatening you, who is intimidating you.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Karim Sadjadpour, a Middle East expert at the Carnegie Endowment, said this latest round of sanctions will likely provoke an Iranian reply.

  • Karim Sadjadpour:

    I don't think it's probably going to be enough to break them and force them to capitulate. But it could trigger a further Iranian response in this escalation cycle we are already in.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    And Sadjadpour the cyberattacks could receive a tit-for-tat reply, because Iran's ability to launch its own cyberattacks has increased.

  • Karim Sadjadpour:

    Iran, as a recipient of major cyberattacks, has become much more adept than neighboring countries in the Middle East because it's simply really reverse-engineering some of the cyberattacks it has been faced with.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Today, President Trump reiterated the administration's long list of demands on Iran. But with that stick came this carrot.

  • President Donald Trump:

    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 could be tomorrow. It could also be in years from now.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Secretary of State Pompeo continues his consultations in the Persian Gulf region tomorrow.

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