WASHINGTON — The Trump administration on Tuesday slapped sanctions on an alleged Iranian-backed Shiite group in Bahrain that it accuses of trying to overthrow Bahrain’s government and plotting terrorist attacks on Americans in the country, which is home to the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet.
The State and Treasury departments announced the sanctions as part of an administration-wide push to ramp up pressure on Iran before President Donald Trump leaves office next month. The sanctions freeze any assets the Saraya al-Mukhtar group has within U.S. jurisdictions and bar Americans from doing any business with it or its members.
The president has multiple means to hit Iran.
“Saraya al-Mukhtar’s self-described goal is to depose the Bahraini government with the intention of paving the way for Iran to exert greater influence in Bahrain,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement. “This action notifies the U.S. public and the international community that Saraya al-Mukhtar poses a significant risk of committing acts of terrorism.”
Bahrain’s Sunni government has long accused Iran of fomenting unrest in the country. While Iran has not directly seized or targeted a tanker in recent months as it did last year, a mine struck an oil tanker off Saudi Arabia and a cargo ship near Yemen came under assault recently.
Vice Adm. Sam Paparo, the Navy's Fifth Fleet commander, has not seen any major crises in the Persian Gulf since taking charge several months ago.
Suspicion for that immediately fell on Yemen’s Iranian-backed Houthi rebels for being behind both attacks. The Houthis have not commented on either