Trump to ‘substantially increase’ sanctions on Iran, amid calls for war

The president announced the planned sanctions on Wednesday, two days after saying “it is certainly looking” like Iran carried out drone strikes on two Saudi Arabian oil facilities over the weekend, although he did not name the entities to be sanctioned. The attacks knocked out around half of the country’s oil production, or five percent of the world’s supply.

Tehran denies having a hand in the attack, which was immediately claimed by Houthi rebels in Yemen, who have been engaged in a four-year military conflict with Saudi forces.

Further sanctions are far from the ‘thaw’ some cautiously expected after Trump sacked hawkish National Security Advisor John Bolton – a longtime proponent of military strikes on Iran – and declared his willingness to meet Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. But neither are they the ‘fire and fury’ response some of the president’s confidants have been calling for.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo immediately blamed Iran for the “unprecedented attack,” while Republican Senator Lindsey Graham called for a strike on Iranian facilities in response, to “break the regime’s back.”

Trump, however, has signaled his aversion to war at several points in recent weeks.

Graham took to Twitter on Tuesday to call Trump’s prior restraint on Iran “a sign of weakness.” Trump shot back, calling his decision to call off an attack on the country earlier this summer “a sign of strength that some people just don’t understand!”

The Saudis, meanwhile, have promised to show “material evidence” linking Iran to the attack later on Wednesday, and have called for an international probe involving the United Nations.

Iran has been heavily sanctioned by the US since the Trump administration unilaterally withdrew from the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA, or Iran Deal) last year. The deal promised sanctions relief in exchange for a curb on its nuclear program. Since the withdrawal, Washington has sanctioned the military, businesses, and the oil sector which is vital to Iran’s economy.

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