U.S. media reports say the U.S. President Trump has imposed new sanctions on Iran, stepping up a policy of pressuring the nation’s leaders and further squeezing the Iranian economy in retaliation for what the United States says are recent aggressive acts by Tehran.

The New York Times says the move came on top of actions taken by the administration this spring to cut off all revenues from Iranian oil exports, the lifeblood of the nation’s economy.

The new sanctions are reportedly aimed at preventing some top Iranian officials from using the international banking system or any financial vehicles set up by European nations or other countries.  But the Iranian officials most likely do not keep substantial assets in international banks, if any at all, or use those institutions for transactions, and any additional pressure from the new sanctions is likely to be minimal.

The largely symbolic nature of this round of sanctions indicates that the Trump administration is running low on arrows in its economic quiver, according to The New York Times.  It now finds itself in a waiting game, as it watches for whether the latest clampdown on oil exports, which was announced in late April, will force the Iranian leaders to surrender to American demands in exchange for economic relief.

President Trump said the new sanctions order would bar Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader of Iran, and his office from access to the international financial system. The Treasury Department said it was also imposing sanctions on eight Iranian military commanders, including the head of a unit that the Americans say was responsible for shooting down an American drone last Thursday.

Meanwhile, Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif called on the United States to withdraw forces from the Persian Gulf, but warned against some regional countries’ “thirst for war,” according to IRNA. 

Iranian FM calls on US to withdraw forces from the Persian Gulf; photo / IRNA

“Donald Trump is 100% right that the US military has no business in the Persian Gulf. Removal of its forces is fully in line with interests of US and the world,” Iranian FM Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted Monday night.

Zarif’s tweet came in response to the US president’s tweet that criticized the US protection for other countries oil tankers passing through the strategic Strait of Hormuz.

“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.  All of these countries should be protecting their own ships on what has always been a dangerous journey,” he tweeted on Monday morning.

“We don’t even need to be there in that the US has just become (by far) the largest producer of Energy anywhere in the world!,” he added.

The US president withdrew from the multilateral nuclear deal, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), in May 2018 and imposed economic sanctions on Iran that were lifted under the treaty, ratified by the UNSC Resolution 2231 in 2016.

Trump also sees Iran’s presence in regional countries such as Iraq and Syria as “sponsoring terror” while it claims to be “fighting terrorism” there.

Iran says it has been invited by Iraqi and Syrian governments to fight terrorism.