President Donald Trump speaks during a joint news conference with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison at the White House on Friday. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo
Sept. 20 (UPI) -- President Donald Trump on Friday announced what he described as the "highest sanctions ever imposed on a country" against Iran, more than a year after the United States withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal.
Trump promised to levy the "strongest sanctions ever" against Iran in May 2018 when he unilaterally withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. The agreement lifted sanctions in exchange for Iran limiting its nuclear program.
The president told reporters Friday new sanctions will go "right to the top" of Iran's government.
"You will be seeing certain things happening but a very major factor is what we did," Trump said after a meeting with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison. "The highest sanctions ever imposed on a country. We've never done it to this level."
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the sanctions will target "the last remaining source of funds for both the central bank of Iran, as well as the national development fund -- which is their sovereign wealth fund."
"This is very big. We've now cut off all source of funds to Iran," he said.
Last week, Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said he will not hold talks with the United States until the 2015 nuclear deal is restored and pressure is lifted.
The sanctions come less than a week after a drone attack on Saudi oil installations that U.S. and Saudi officials blamed on Tehran. Iran is supporting Houthi rebels in their fight against the Saudi-backed Yemeni government.
The Iranian leader called Trump administration sanctions "quite worthless" -- but said if the United States "repents" and rejoins the 2015 pact, Iran would again be willing to negotiate.
Trump declined to say whether the new sanctions fail to leave breathing room for the United States to escalate economic pressure on Iran for bad actions.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani rejected U.S. and Saudi accusations, calling them "slander." Houthi rebels have claimed responsibility for the Saudi attack, but U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the weapons used were Iranian.
Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif warned Thursday that any military action by the United States would cause "all out war."