Three months after he revealed he was pulling the US out of the seven-party Iran nuclear deal, Mr Trump announced the reimposition of a wide range of sanctions against the Middle Eastern nation. A second set will be reimposed in a further three months.
“[The Iran nuclear deal] 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,” Mr Trump said in a statement.
“Since the deal was reached, Iran’s aggression has only increased. The regime has used the windfall of newly accessible funds it received under the JCPOA to build nuclear-capable missiles, fund terrorism, and fuel conflict across the Middle East and beyond.”
In the aftermath of Mr Trump’s unilateral decision in May, the other parties to the 2015 deal – Russia, China, Germany, France, the UK and the EU – vowed to stick with the deal and to and continue to trade with Iran. Several companies, such as French-based Airbus, felt obliged to pull out of a deal with Iran, rather than risk sanctions from Washington.
The revoking of licensees to the company and its rival, Boeing, saw the aircraft manufacturer lose out on a $39bn deal with Tehran for new planes. Easing sanctions such as this was a major inducement get Tehran to sign the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in 2015 under President Barack Obama.
The executive order signed on Monday, which will come into effect at midnight EST, relates to the purchase or acquisition of US currency Iran, the trade in gold and other precious metals, materials such as graphite, aluminium, steel and coal, and software used in industrial processes. They also target the country’ automotive sector.
The remaining sanctions to be reimposed on November 5 relate to Iran’s port operators and energy, shipping, and shipbuilding sectors. Crucially, they will also target its oil industry and foreign financial institutions with the Central Bank of Iran.
A group of EU foreign ministers issued a statement saying they deeply regretted the new sanctions and said that Iran was abiding by the agreement when Mr Trump withdrew. It “is working and delivering on its goal” of limiting Iran’s nuclear programme, they said.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif claimed Mr Trump and US allies, Israel and Saudi Arabia, had become isolated by their hostile policies towards Tehran, state TV reported. “Their oppressive policies and violent measures have made them isolated…The world has distanced itself from their hostile policies against Iran,” Mr Zarif was quoted as saying.
The Trump administration has been pressuring nations to abide by the sanctions and cut their imports of Iranian oil to zero. Many countries, among them India, which is the second biggest importer of Iranian oil after China, have began reducing how much they buy.
During a briefing with reporters, a Trump administration official was asked if the US would offer any waivers to countries. “It is our policy to get as many countries to zero as quickly as possible,” the official said, according to Reuters. “We are going to work with individual countries on a case by case basis, but our goal is to reduce the amount of revenue and hard currency going into Iran.”
In addition to the sanctions, the Trump administration has engaged in a propaganda war against Iran. Officials claim it does not have a policy of regime change, but rather wants to change the actions of the authorities in Tehran.
In a speech last month in California, secretary of state Mike Pompeo launched a scathing attack on Iran’s clerical and military rulers, calling them a kleptocracy similar to the mafia.
“The level of corruption and wealth among regime leaders shows that Iran is run by something that resembles the mafia more than a government,” Mr Pompeo said in speech made to a largely Iranian American audience at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library outside Los Angeles.
Iranian president Hassan Rouhani responded that if the US was to engage in military conflict, it would result in the “mother of all wars”. Mr Trump in turn said on Twitter that Iran would “suffer consequences the likes of which few throughout history have ever suffered before”, if it did anything negative.
At the same time, Mr Trump has recently offered to meet with the Iranian leadership, with no pre-conditions. The offer was repeated on Monday by the official briefing reporters.
The official said the president “will meet with the Iranian leadership at any time to discuss a real comprehensive deal that will contain their regional ambitions, will end their malign behaviour and deny them any path to a nuclear weapon”.
Critics of Mr Trump’s actions said the seven-party deal, designed to limit Iran’s nuclear weapons ambitions in a verifiable manner, was one of the most effective arms control deals of recent years. Opponents of the deal, among them Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, praised Mr Trump’s decision to withdraw.
Commentators have pointed out that the very modest “deal” Mr Trump touted after his summit with Kim Jong-un in Singapore in June was light on detail and merely pledged in to work towards “denuclearisation”.