- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 12, 2019

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Iran is under “unprecedented” pressure by global sanctions and could face harsher economic conditions than during the country’s 1980s war with Iraq, after the U.S. expanded its efforts to apply military and economic pressure.

President Trump has recently announced a fresh set of sanctions targeting Iranian industrial metals such as iron, steel, aluminum and copper, and moved to uphold a global embargo on Iranian crude oil.

Administration officials said the sanctions are designed to bite Iran’s economy beyond the oil sector, which provides most of the nation’s wealth, and that Mr. Trump is prepared to go further if provoked.

“During the war we did not have a problem with our banks, oil sales or imports and exports, and there were only sanctions on arms purchases,” Mr. Rouhani said on Saturday to political activists in Tehran.

The Iranian president said that while “the pressures by enemies is a war unprecedented in the history of our Islamic revolution … I do not despair and have great hope for the future and believe that we can move past these difficult conditions provided that we are united,” the BBC reported.

Mr. Rouhani’s comments come at a crucial moment in an increasingly hostile relationship between the U.S. and Iran. The Trump administration last week deployed an aircraft carrier and bomber task force to the Middle East in response to growing concern that Tehran-backed militias were plotting an attack against American forces in Iraq.

Days after the deployment, Iran delivered an ultimatum to the U.S. and its allies and demanded to rework a comprehensive nuclear deal within the next 60 days, or Tehran will quickly ramp up its uranium enrichment operations to near weapons-grade levels.

The high-stakes demand came exactly a year after Mr. Trump pulled the U.S. out of the multinational Obama-era nuclear accord, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which allowed Iran to enrich uranium up to 3.67% — enough to fuel nuclear power plants used for peaceful purposes.

U.S. officials have said the administration has no intention of easing the pressure, particularly if Iran begins high-level uranium enrichment operations.

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