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Trump says fresh US sanctions on Iran will target Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei

Published: Updated:

US President Donald Trump ordered “hard-hitting” financial sanctions on Monday on Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, holding him “ultimately responsible” for Tehran’s destabilizing activities.

“We will continue to increase pressure on Tehran,” Trump said as he signed the order in the Oval Office. “Never can Iran have a nuclear weapon.”

“We do not ask for conflict,” he said, adding that depending on Iran’s response the sanctions could end tomorrow -- or it “can also be years from now.”

According to a Reuters investigation in 2013, Khamenei controls a business empire worth around $95 billion – a sum exceeding the value of his oil-rich nation’s current annual petroleum exports.

The little-known organization, called Setad, is one of the keys to the Iranian leader’s power and now holds stakes in nearly every sector of Iranian industry, including finance, oil, telecommunications, the production of birth-control pills and even ostrich farming.

Under Khamenei, the organization has expanded its corporate holdings, buying stakes in dozens of Iranian companies, both private and public, with the stated goal of creating an Iranian conglomerate to boost the country’s economic growth.

Setad’s total worth is difficult to pinpoint because of the secrecy of its accounts. Reuters estimates it at around $95 billion, made up of about $52 billion in real estate and $43 billion in corporate holdings.