The Trump administration on Monday reimposed sweeping sanctions on Iran, targeting its financial sector and oil industry to pressure the Islamic regime to cease nuclear weapon development and sponsoring terrorism.
The rollout was the largest ever single-day action targeting the Iranian regime and a crucial step in President Trump’s pullout from the Iran nuclear deal that was announced in May.
“Treasury’s imposition of unprecedented financial pressure on Iran should make clear to the Iranian regime that they will face mounting financial isolation and economic stagnation until they fundamentally change their destabilizing behavior,” Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin said.
He called on Iran’s leaders to immediately give up support for terrorism, stop proliferating ballistic missiles, end destructive regional meddling and abandon their nuclear ambitions in order to escape the crushing sanctions.
“The maximum pressure exerted by the United States is only going to mount from here. We are intent on making sure the Iranian regime stops siphoning its hard currency reserves into corrupt investments and the hands of terrorists,” Mr. Mnuchin said.
Iran remained defiant, greeting the renewed U.S. sanctions with air defense drills and a warning from President Hassan Rouhani that the nation faces a “war situation.”
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“We are in the economic war situation. We are confronting a bullying enemy. We have to stand to win,” Mr. Rouhani said in a statement.
He also vowed to keep selling the oil that is the country’s economic lifeblood.
The sanctions end all economic benefits the United States had granted Tehran for its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, though Iran for now continues to abide by the accord that saw it limit its enrichment of uranium.
The restored sanctions hit list includes:
• 50 Iranian banks and their foreign and domestic subsidiaries.
• More than 400 targets, including over 200 persons and vessels in Iran’s shipping and energy sectors.
• Iran Air and more than 65 of the airline’s aircraft.
• Nearly 250 persons and associated property returned to the list of Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons.
Mr. Trump called the Obama-era nuclear deal with Iran the “worst ever” agreement stuck by the U.S. But the other parties to the deal — Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia — stuck with it.
The European Union, France, Germany and Britain said they regretted the renewed U.S. sanctions and would try to protect their companies doing legitimate business with Tehran.
Iran is already in the grip of an economic crisis. Its national currency, the rial, now trades at 150,000 to one U.S. dollar, down from when it traded around 40,500 to $1 a year ago. The economic chaos sparked mass anti-government protests at the end of last year which resulted in nearly 5,000 reported arrests and at least 25 people being killed. Sporadic demonstrations still continue.
Mr. Trump stressed that the sanctions target the Iranian regime, not the Iranian people. He said the goal is curbing the government’s bad behavior, not regime change.
“I don’t want to totally destroy their country. I don’t want to do that,” Mr. Trump said last week in an interview with The Washington Times.
The Treasury said its Office of Foreign Assets Control will continue to maintain humanitarian authorizations and exceptions that allow for the sale of agricultural commodities, food, medicine, and medical devices to Iran.
The administration also granted eight countries a six-month exemption from penalties for buying Iranian crude. Exempted countries are top Iranian oil importers China, India, South Korea, Turkey, Italy, United Arab Emirates and Japan, as well as occasional oil customer Taiwan.
Asked about the eight exempted countries, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the U.S. was exerting intense pressure on Iran.
“We are going to make sure we are putting it where it hurts in these financial sectors and the oil industry. This is where they feel it, and it’s exactly why the sanctions have been targeted in those places,” she told Fox News’ “Fox & Friends.”
• This article was based in part on wire service reports.