Trump: New Iran sanctions, USS Cole to Red Sea

DEBKAfile February 3, 2017

Donald Trump ended his second week as president Friday, Feb. 3, by demonstrating his resolve to cut Iran down to size. This is his main preoccupation in the Middle East to the exclusion of all other Middle East issues.

After Trump personally warned the Islamic Republic that it was “playing with fire,” the US Treasury released a fresh round of anti-Iran sanctions, targeting 13 individuals and 12 entities, some based in the UAE, Lebanon and China. In the next hours, the USS Cole destroyer was posted to the Red Sea’s Bab al Mandeb Straits, after Iran-backed Yemeni Houthi rebels began planting mines in the strategic waterway and oil route chokepoint.

This was seen in Washington as a fresh Iranian provocation for escalating tensions, six days after a Houthi suicide attack in fast boats on a Saudi frigate on patrol in the Red Sea, and attacks on US vessels in October.

National security adviser Michael Flynn’s statement Wednesday putting Iran “on notice” for last week’s ballistic missile test, drew a snooty response Thursday night, from a top adviser to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei that Iran will not yield to “useless” US threats from “an inexperienced person.”

Trump had evidently decided that Tehran’s scornful provocations deserved a fitting response.