The official told Reuters that Iran could have enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon by the end of the year, adding that Tehran had resumed long-range missile cooperation with nuclear-armed North Korea.
“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,” Reuters quoted the official as saying.
The official argued that 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, Reuters reported.
The U.S. official said among Monday’s targets will be Iran’s “most nefarious arms organizations,” about a dozen senior officials, scientists and experts from Iran’s nuclear complex, members of a procurement network that supplies military-grade dual-use goods for Iran’s missile program, and several senior officials involved in Iran’s ballistic missile program, according to Reuters.
The official declined to name the targets, saying this would be made public on Monday, and stressed that the United States wants to deter foreign companies from dealing with them even if their governments believe this is legally permitted.
“You might have a split in some countries where a foreign government may claim that the U.N. sanctions don’t snap back but their banks and companies will abide by U.S. sanctions because they want to make sure they are not a future target,” he said.
Reuters said the new sanctions fit into U.S. President Donald Trump’s effort to limit Iran’s regional influence and come a week after U.S.-brokered deals for the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain to normalize ties with Israel.
The sanctions also put European allies, China and Russia on notice that while their inclination may be to ignore the U.S. 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 U.S. push is an executive order targeting those who buy or sell Iran conventional arms and will also be unveiled by the Trump administration on Monday, the official said.
In May 2018, Trump abandoned that agreement to the dismay of the other parties – Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia – and restored U.S. sanctions that have crippled Iran’s economy.
Iran, in turn, has gradually breached the central limits in that deal, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), including on the size of its stockpile of low-enriched uranium as well as the level of purity to which it was allowed to enrich uranium.
“Because of Iran’s provocative nuclear escalation, it could have sufficient fissile material for a nuclear weapon by the end of this year,” the official said without elaborating except to say this was based on “the totality” of information available to the United States, including from the IAEA.
The United States says it has triggered a “snap back,” or resumption, of all U.N. sanctions on Iran, including the arms embargo, which would take effect at 8 p.m. on Saturday night or 0000 GMT on Sunday.
But 13 of the U.N. Security Council members say U.S.’ move is void because it is no longer a party to the nuclear deal. Washington says it can make the move because the 2015 Security Council resolution still names it as a participant.
Diplomats say few countries are likely to reimpose the sanctions, which were lifted under the deal that aimed to stop Iran developing nuclear weapons.
Under the 2015 nuclear deal that Iran struck with six major powers – Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States – the U.N. conventional arms embargo is to set to expire on Oct. 18, shortly before the Nov. 3 U.S. election.
The U.S. official confirmed to Reuters that Trump would issue an executive order that would allow the United States to punish those who buy or sell conventional arms to Iran with secondary sanctions, depriving them of access to the U.S. market.
The proximate cause for this U.S. action is the impending expiration of a U.N. arms embargo on Iran and to warn foreign actors – U.S. entities are already barred from such trade – that if they buy or sell arms to Iran they will face U.S. sanctions.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres wrote told the Security Council in a letter that he cannot take any action on the U.S. declaration that all U.N. sanctions on Iran had been reimposed because “there would appear to be uncertainty” on the issue.
U.N. officials provide administrative and technical support to the Security Council to implement its sanctions regimes and Guterres appoints independent experts to monitor implementation.
On Friday, Britain, France and Germany told the Security Council that U.N. sanctions relief for Iran would continue beyond Sunday, despite Washington’s assertion.