President Trump said Wednesday that he had directed the U.S. Treasury to “substantially increase” sanctions on Iran amid tensions over attacks on major Saudi Arabian oil facilities.
The president did not go into further detail, and it is unclear what the sanctions would include.
The decision was the latest escalation after Iran warned the U.S. that it would retaliate “immediately” if Tehran were to be targeted over a weekend attack on Saudi oil installations. The White House earlier indicated Iran was behind air strikes that took out 5% of global supplies, causing oil prices to surge.
President Trump emphasized Monday he wanted to avoid a new Middle East war even as he stressed that the U.S. military was ready for action. He said he was in “no rush” to decide on a response.
I have just instructed the Secretary of the Treasury to substantially increase Sanctions on the country of Iran!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 18, 2019
Iran denied responsibility for the attacks and, in response to White House allegations, said officials including Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo were engaged in “maximum deceit.”
No details yet on what this means https://t.co/C45Y7ILlIv— Chris Megerian (@ChrisMegerian) September 18, 2019
Iran also ruled out a potential meeting between Trump and Hassan Rouhani, Iran’s president, on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly next week in New York. The U.N. meeting had been considered an opportunity for direct talks between the leaders that, amid a summer of heightened tensions, could resolve the crisis. The U.S. exited the Iran nuclear deal last year and urged other world powers to do the same.
White House national security officials briefed Trump on what Secretary of Defense Mark Esper called an “unprecedented attack” on production at Aramco, Saudi Arabia’s flagship oil company, which U.S. officials believed involved explosives-laden drones and possibly cruise missiles. The strike affected some 5.7 million barrels per day and halved the kingdom’s oil production, according to Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman.
“Amid all the calls for de-escalation, Iran has now launched an unprecedented attack on the world’s energy supply,” Pompeo tweeted. “We call on all nations to publicly and unequivocally condemn Iran’s attacks.”
Trump’s announcement on Wednesday came shortly before the president named Robert C. O’Brien, the special envoy for hostage affairs at the State Department, his next national security advisor following the abrupt ousting of John Bolton last week. O’Brien will be the fourth person to serve in the position under Trump at a time when foreign policy challenges are mounting for the president, including the attack on Saudi Arabia’s oil facilities.
L.A. Times staff writers Chris Megerian and Nabih Bulos contributed to this report.