Monday’s sanctions are a reintroduction of penalties lifted under the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). The multilateral deal promised Iran sanctions relief in exchange for a pause on its nuclear weapons program. President Trump withdrew from the deal in May, and has since reimposed economic sanctions in several rounds.
The sanctions target 50 Iranian banks, 200 individuals, and vessels in Iran’s shipping and energy sectors, as well as one airline and 65 of its aircraft. Furthermore, Pompeo promised to mete out “swift punishment” to countries who defy the US’ anti-Iran sanctions.
“I promise you,” Pompeo said, “that doing business with Iran in defiance of our sanctions will ultimately be a much more painful business decision than pulling out of Iran.”
Pompeo boasted of the effects of sanctions on Iran’s oil revenue, which he said is down by over $2.5 billion since the first sanctions were reintroduced in May.
While 20 countries have already halted the importation on Iranian oil, the US will grant an exemption to eight countries, including China, Italy, Greece and South Korea and will allow these nations to continue to buy Iranian oil.
The exemption was the only conciliatory gesture in Pompeo’s short and aggressive announcement. In addition to warning other countries against doing business with the Islamic Republic, Pompeo directly warned Tehran that it could “act like a normal country, or see its economy crumble.”
The Trump administration’s strategy, Pompeo said, is to “fundamentally alter the behavior of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s leadership,” and to “convince the regime to abandon its current revolutionary course.”
Nobody within the administration has openly called for regime change in Tehran yet. However, aggressive sanctions are just one of the tools the US is deploying to bend Iran’s arm. In August, the State Department announced the creation of the Iran Action Group (IAG), which will support opposition forces within Iran; and National Security Advisor John Bolton promised that the US would do “other things” to force a “massive change in the regime’s behavior.”
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani vowed to continue to sell oil, and compared President Trump to former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, against whom his country fought in the 1980s.
“Yesterday, Saddam was in front us, today Trump is front of us. There is no difference. We must resist and win,” he said, according to AP.
“We are in the economic war situation. We are confronting a bullying enemy. We have to stand to win,” he added.
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