Donald Trump will hit more than a dozen figures linked to Iran's nuclear programme with sanctions on Monday, a senior US official has announced, as he claimed the regime was working with North Korea to produce a long-range missile.
The unnamed official told Reuters news agency that Iran may have enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon by the end of the year and that Tehran has resumed long-range missile cooperation with nuclear-armed North Korea. He did not provide detailed evidence regarding either assertion.
The new sanctions fit into US President Donald Trump's effort to limit Iran's regional influence and come a week after US-brokered deals for the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain to normalize ties with Israel, pacts that may coalesce a wider coalition against Iran while appealing to pro-Israel US voters ahead of the Nov. 3 election.
The new sanctions also put European allies, China and Russia on notice that while their inclination may be to ignore the US drive to maintain the U.N. sanctions on Iran, companies based in their nations would feel the bite for violating them.
A major part of the new US push is an executive order targeting those who buy or sell Iran conventional arms that was previously reported by Reuters and will also be unveiled by the Trump administration on Monday, the official said.
The Trump administration suspects Iran of seeking nuclear weapons - something Tehran denies - and Monday's punitive steps are the latest in a series seeking to stymie Iran's atomic program, which US ally Israel views as an existential threat.
"Iran is clearly doing everything it can to keep in existence a virtual turnkey capability to get back into the weaponization business at a moment's notice should it choose to do so," the US official told Reuters.
The official argued Iran wants a nuclear weapons capability and the means to deliver it despite the 2015 deal that sought to prevent this by restraining Iran's atomic program in return for access to the world market.