WASHINGTON — The Trump administration announced new sanctions on Iran's metals sectors Wednesday, the latest step in a push to squeeze Tehran that has heightened tensions in the Middle East.
Trump's executive order, which imposed sanctions on the steel, aluminum and copper industries, came hours after Iran announced it was withdrawing from parts of an Obama-era nuclear agreement. President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from that deal a year ago but Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China remain.
"It remains the policy of the United States to deny Iran all paths to both a nuclear weapon and intercontinental ballistic missiles, and to counter the totality of Iran's malign influence in the Middle East," Trump said in the order released Wednesday.
He added that revenue from the metals industries "may be used to provide funding and support for the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, terrorist groups and networks, campaigns of regional aggression, and military expansion."
In addition to pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Trump has added sanctions on Iran and designated Iran's Revolutionary Guard a "foreign terrorist organization."
It's part of a strategy the administration describes as "maximum pressure."
The announcement comes after National Security Adviser John Bolton disclosed Sunday that a U.S. carrier strike group and a bomber task force would be sent to the Middle East ahead of schedule. Officials have cited intelligence suggesting an increased risk of attacks against U.S. interests by Iran or its proxies.
Congressional Democrats briefed on the intelligence have not disputed it, but have criticized a Trump strategy they say risks war with Iran while providing no benefit to U.S. national security.
"Iran's malign activities in Yemen, Syria, and elsewhere in the region, and the Iranian regime's hateful rhetoric against our ally, Israel, are dangerous," Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., who chairs the House Intelligence Committee, said in a statement Wednesday before the sanctions announcement. "At the same time, recent statements and actions taken by the Administration have heightened my concern of a cycle of escalation with Iran — one that could put us on the path to a war that would be destabilizing, costly, and contrary to our national interest."
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters that any U.S. military action against Iran must have the assent of Congress.
"There is no appetite in our country for war," she said.