Trump says he told Mnuchin to ‘substantially increase’ sanctions on Iran

US President Donald Trump speaks before signing an executive order for sanctions on Iran’s supreme leader in the Oval Office of the White House on June 24, 2019 as
US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin looks on. Mandel Ngan | AFP | Getty Images

President Donald Trump said Wednesday that he ordered the Treasury Department to “substantially increase” sanctions on Iran. 

It was not immediately clear what steps the president directed Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to take. Neither the Treasury Department nor the White House immediately responded to CNBC’s requests to comment.

Trump’s announcement follows strikes Saturday on the world’s largest crude-processing plant and oil field in Saudi Arabia. The U.S. accused Iran of carrying out the attacks.

The strikes triggered the largest spike in crude prices in decades and renewed concerns of a budding conflict in the Middle East. All the while, Iran maintains that it was not behind the attacks.

U.S. crude and benchmark global Brent oil prices dropped Wednesday after the White House announced sanctions instead of military action. 

On Tuesday, Trump said aboard Air Force One that he does not intend to meet with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani at the U.N. General Assembly in New York next week.

“I’m not looking to meet him. I don’t think they’re ready yet, but I’d prefer not meeting him,” Trump said. Rouhani likewise said he would not meet with Trump.

A day after warning that the United States was “locked and loaded” to respond to the Saudi incident, Trump dialed down his rhetoric. On Monday, he said there was “no rush” to take action and that the U.S. was coordinating with allies on the matter.

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper also spoke to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Monday. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo traveled to the kingdom Tuesday.

The Pentagon’s top Air Force general said Tuesday that while the service had not yet received direction to send additional bomber aircraft to the region the U.S. was closely monitoring the area.

The latest confrontation represents another brick in the crumbling edifice between Washington and Tehran after a string of attacks in the Persian Gulf earlier this year.

In June, U.S. officials said an Iranian surface-to-air missile shot down an American military surveillance drone over the Strait of Hormuz. Iran said the aircraft was over its territory.

Hours later, Trump said Iran made a “very big mistake” by shooting down the spy drone. The downing of the drone came a week after the U.S. blamed Iran for attacks on two oil tankers in the Persian Gulf region and after four tankers were attacked in May.

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