The White House did not impose new sanctions against Iran on Thursday in response to its downing of a U.S. military drone, contrary to President Trump’s assertion in a Twitter post Friday morning.
Trump’s statement of new penalties against Iran came during a string of Twitter posts, in which he explained his decision to stop - at the last minute - military attack against Iran.
“Sanctions are biting & more added last night,” he wrote. “Iran can NEVER have Nuclear Weapons, not against the USA, and not against the WORLD!”
But no such sanctions were imposed.
Instead, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said during a speech in Orlando that new counter-measures against Iran would be considered if the country didn’t do more to deal with money laundering and terrorist-financing. Those issues are completely unrelated to the escalating tensions between both countries, particularly the dispute about the downed drone.
A White House spokesman did not respond to an inquiry regarding Trump’s comments.
“He’s orchestrating sanctions policy from the hip and as everyone looks around it’s clear there were no sanctions rolled out last night,” said Elizabeth Rosenberg, who worked on sanctions policy at the Treasury Department during the Obama administration.
Rosenberg said Trump’s comments were confusing and muddied the White House’s message as Trump deals with one of the biggest national security tests of his presidency.
“The tit-for-tat escalation has already moved into the military zone,” she said.
Trump has authored Twitter posts before about sanctions that didn’t comport with U.S. policy and that aides struggled to explain.
On March 22, Trump wrote on Twitter that he was cancelling sanctions that the Treasury Department had “announced today” against North Korea.
“I have today ordered the withdrawal of those additional Sanctions!” he wrote.
But, in fact, the Treasury Department had not announced any new sanctions against North Korea at that time, and officials could not explain what he was referring to.
Sanctions are a type of economic penalty that the Treasury Department can impose against businesses or individuals to try and pressure a country to change its behavior. Sanctions often prevent U.S. or foreign banks from doing business with the listed people, walling those individuals off from the financial system and potentially freezing access to money.
In May 2018, Trump withdrew from a multi-nation pact with Iran that the Obama administration had helped craft, which aimed to deter Iran’s development of nuclear weapons. In August, several months later, Trump imposed new sanctions against Iran in an attempt to block companies from doing business with the regime.
Those are the sanctions Trump appeared to suggest in his Twitter post that are “biting,” but additional sanctions were not added on top of those Thursday, despite Trump’s claim that they were.