US announces first round of Iran sanctions, Donald Trump says open to new deal

The first phase of US sanctions against Iran goes into effect overnight.

world Updated: Aug 06, 2018 23:43 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Hindustan Times, Washington
Trump Iran deal,Donald Trump,Trump news
US President Donald Trump speaks to reporters after signing a proclamation declaring his intention to withdraw from the JCPOA Iran nuclear agreement in the Diplomatic Room at the White House in Washington, US May 8, 2018.(Reuters File Photo)

The US on Monday announced the reimposition of the first set of trade sanctions against Iran, aimed at forcing Tehran to renegotiate the 2015 nuclear deal that President Donald Trump walked out of in May.

The curbs, that go into effect on Tuesday, will impact Iran’s automotive sector, trade in precious metals such as gold, and will prohibit it from using the US dollar — the common currency for international trade.

Announcing the sanctions, Trump said: “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. The United States welcomes the partnership of likeminded nations in these efforts.”

The next round of sanctions go into effect in November and that will hit Iran’s ports and crude oil exports. Those curbs will impact India directly, forcing it curtail and cease buying crude from its third largest supplier under the threat of secondary — though unintended — sanctions.

New Delhi has sought a waiver, citing not only its oil imports but also the strategic importance of the Chabahar port, which allows India access to Afghanistan. US officials have indicated condition-based waivers might be considered on a case-to-case basis but there has been no announcement yet.

Trump has long opposed to the Iran nuclear deal, also called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which was signed in 2015 by the US, UK, Russia, France, China, Germany and the EU with Iran. He says the deal did not prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons over a longer period, did not stop its ballistic missile programme, and did not thing to dissuade it from carrying out “malign activities” in the region.

“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 said, while announcing the sanctions.

There was no response from Iran to the sanctions at the time of going to print. President Hassan Rouhani was expected to speak later in the day.

However, the other signatories of the JCPOA have said they intend to continue with the agreement. The EU, Germany, France and the UK said in statement the JCPOA is working and is “crucial” for peace in Europe, stating that a “blocking statute’ will protect their companies from legal actions from the United States for continuing to conduct business with Iran.

But there are unlikely to push back the United States too hard, wary of being blocked out of America’s market and by extension the global financial system that it dominates as the world’s largest economy.

To them and others, Trump warned, without taking names, “The United States is fully committed to enforcing all of our sanctions, and we will work closely with nations conducting business with Iran to ensure complete compliance. Individuals or entities that fail to wind down activities with Iran risk severe consequences.”

But his administration has also initiated talks with countries that have sought a waiver, specially importers of Iranian crude such as India. “We want people to reduce oil purchases to zero, but in certain cases if people can’t do that overnight, we’ll consider exceptions,” US treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin had said in July.

Trump pulled the US out of the deal in May and his administration has since rolled out a long list of demands that Iran must fulfil for a renegotiated deal. At the same time, he has also signalled a willingness to meet Rouhani, and there is speculation they could meet on the sidelines of the upcoming UN General Assembly meetings in September.

First Published: Aug 06, 2018 20:43 IST