WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump announced new sanctions against Iran Monday that he said would deny the regime's leaders access to financial instruments.
"Today's action follows a series of aggressive behaviors by the Iranian regime in recent weeks including shooting down of U.S. drones," Trump told reporters at the White House before signing an executive order to implement the penalties.
Trump said the order would deny Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and "those closely affiliated with him" access to certain financial resources.
The measures will block transactions involving any property and or other assets that Iran's leaders hold in the U.S., the White House said. But it's not clear how much of an impact the new action will have.
Trump's Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said he could not divulge the value of assets Iran has in the U.S.
Mnuchin said the new measures would "lock up literally billions of dollars" in assets. He rejected the suggestion that the latest sanctions were symbolic, saying they would be "highly effective."
In a statement, the Treasury Department said the U.S. could also penalize "any foreign financial institution" that knowingly facilitates a monetary transaction with the newly designated individuals and entities. They risk being "cut off from the U.S. financial system," the Treasury statement said.
The U.S. has already crippled Iran's economy with a slew of other sanctions.
Mnuchin said in addition to Iran's supreme leader, the sanctions would also target several top officials in Iran's Revolutionary Guards Corps, an elite branch of the country's military, and five members of Iran's navy. Later this week, he said, the U.S. will also sanction Iran's foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif.
Before Trump's announcement, Zarif blasted the U.S. for waging economic "terrorism" against the regime. Zarif is a Western-educated diplomat who offers one of the few public diplomatic channels between Iran and the West.
Last fall, the Trump administration reimposed sanctions seeking to bar any country from purchasing Iranian oil, the primary source of the regime's revenue. And the Treasury Department has previously targeted Iranian banks, Iran's shipping sectors and an airline and more than 65 of its aircraft.
Trump said the new sanctions were already in the works before Iran shot down a U.S. drone last week. But he also suggested they were partially a response to the drone incident and other "hostile conduct" by the regime.
"The Supreme Leader of Iran is one who ultimately is responsible for the hostile conduct of the regime," Trump said. "His office oversees the regime's most brutal instruments."
Mnuchin, asked if the sanctions were in response to last week's drone strike or earlier attacks on oil tankers that the U.S. blamed on Iran, said both: "Some of these were in the works. Some of these are in addition. All of the above."
The Trump administration said the unmanned drone was flying over international waters; Iran said the drone was flying over its territory.
Trump initially ordered a military response against Iran on Thursday - only to cancel the operation at the last minute.
"I think a lot of restraint has been shown by us - a lot of restraint - and that doesn't mean we're going to show it in the future," Trump said Monday.
Trump unveiled the sanctions as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo traveled to Saudi Arabia and
Contributing: Kim Hjelmgaard
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: President Trump imposes new sanctions on Iran as regime accuses US of 'economic' terrorism