The Trump administration announced Monday the reimposition of sanctions on Iran that were lifted as part of a nuclear agreement with the country.
The sanctions will take effect at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday and follow through on the order President Trump gave when he withdrew from the nuclear pact in May.
“The JCPOA, a horrible, one-sided deal, failed to achieve the fundamental objective of blocking all paths to an Iranian nuclear bomb, and it threw a lifeline of cash to a murderous dictatorship that has continued to spread bloodshed, violence, and chaos,” he added, using the acronym for the official name of the nuclear deal.
In announcing the sanctions action, administration officials touted Iran’s ongoing civil unrest and economic woes and reiterated Trump’s openness to meeting with Iranian leaders.
“The president has been very clear: none of this needs to happen,” a senior administration official told reporters on a background briefing call. “He will meet with Iranian leadership at any time to discuss a real, comprehensive deal that will contain their regional ambitions, will end their malign behavior and deny them any paths to a nuclear weapon.”
Seeking to fulfill a campaign promise to tear up what he’s called the “worst deal ever negotiated,” Trump announced in May he was withdrawing the United States from the 2015 nuclear deal.
The accord, negotiated with Iran under the Obama administration alongside Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Russia and China, gave Tehran billions in sanctions relief in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program.
When announcing the withdrawal, the Trump administration gave companies two wind-down periods before it would reimpose sanctions. The first 90-day wind-down period ends Monday.
The sanctions that will come back into effect after midnight target transactions with U.S. dollar banknotes; trade in gold and precious metals; direct or indirect sales of graphite and metals such as steel and aluminum; certain transactions related to the Iranian rial; certain transactions related to issuing Iranian sovereign debt; and Iran’s automotive sector.
Additionally, authorizations will be revoked for the import of Iranian-origin carpets and foodstuff and the export of commercial aircraft.
The second wind-down period, which ends Nov. 4, will be the more significant one, as that is when sanctions on oil sales snap back. The senior administration official said that will have an “exponential effect” on Iran.
The reimposition of sanctions comes as protests have persisted across Iran, with demonstrators voicing dissatisfaction with a weak economy and financial corruption.
Meanwhile, the rial has lost half its value since April as the U.S. sanctions have loomed.
Administration officials touted both those developments Monday as a sign Trump’s Iran policy is working. But they pushed back on suggestions they are calling for the Iranian people to rise up against their government.
“In standing with the Iranian people, I think we’re just standing up for basic human rights and human dignity and for the economic opportunity they deserve,” an administration official said.
Meanwhile, the European Union has been scrambling to save the deal it sees as vital to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. The EU’s so-called blocking statute, which forbids EU companies from complying with U.S. sanctions, goes into effect Tuesday.
“We deeply regret the re-imposition of sanctions by the U.S.,” the EU and foreign ministers of France, Germany and the United Kingdom said in a joint statement Monday. “The remaining parties to the [nuclear deal] have committed to work on, inter alia, the preservation and maintenance of effective financial channels with Iran, and the continuation of Iran’s export of oil and gas.”
But a senior administration official told reporters Monday that European companies have a “deep understanding” of the situation in Iran and that doing business could mean doing business with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps or its elite Quds Force.
Another senior official said that more than 100 companies across the globe have already announced their intent to leave the Iranian market.
The official added the administration’s goal continues to be to get Iranian oil exports to zero, but reiterated that the administration will look at waiver requests on a case-by-case basis. The official declined to discuss specific waiver negotiations, saying the administration doesn’t disclose “private deliberations.”
The sanctions reimposition also comes shortly after Trump threatened Iran.
After Iranian President Hassan Rouhani last month said that Americans “must understand that war with Iran is the mother of all wars and peace with Iran is the mother of all peace,” Trump issued a tweet telling Rouhani to “NEVER, EVER THREATEN THE UNITED STATES AGAIN OR YOU WILL SUFFER CONSEQUENCES THE LIKES OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED BEFORE.”
Last week, though, Trump said he’d be willing to meet with Iranian leaders without any preconditions.
“As we continue applying maximum economic pressure on the Iranian regime, I remain open to reaching a more comprehensive deal that addresses the full range of the regime’s malign activities, including its ballistic missile program and its support for terrorism,” Trump said in his Monday statement. “The United States welcomes the partnership of like minded nations in these efforts.”
Administration officials argued Monday that increasing pressure on Tehran, such as through the reimposition of sanction, is consistent with the possibility of meeting with Iranian officials.
“This is completely consistent with that the president has done with other meetings with what you might refer to as less friendly regimes, from North Korea to Russia,” an official said, “which is not to give a lot of, any sanctions relief in advance of a meeting to make very clear that the United States keep the maximum pressure on these regimes until our goals are achieved.”
BY REBECCA KHEEL – 08/06/18