WASHINGTON -- U.S. President Donald Trump ordered the reimposition of major financial sanctions on Iran, targeting currency purchases and key industries three months after pulling out of the 2015 nuclear agreement between Tehran and world powers.
In a statement on August 6, Trump repeated his longstanding position that the 2015 accord which provided Tehran with relief from sanctions in return for curbs on its nuclear program was “a horrible, one-sided deal."
The president pulled the United States out of the landmark agreement in May, saying Iran was not living up to the spirit of the accord, and vowed to reimpose economic sanctions that were lifted under the deal.
The United States urged all nations "to make clear that the Iranian regime faces a choice: either change its threatening, destabilizing behavior and reintegrate with the global economy, or continue down a path of economic isolation,” Trump said in the statement released by the White House.
The reimposition of the sanctions, which take effect at 4:01 a.m. GMT, was widely expected, as U.S. officials had signaled for weeks they were intended to move forward despite vociferous objections from European allies.
In an interview on Iranian state TV, President Hassan Rohani said the country will stay true to the nuclear deal despite the U.S. sanctions.
"They want to launch psychological warfare against the Iranian nation and create divisions among the people," he said in a televised interview.
Iran’s foreign minister, meanwhile, asserted the United States was isolated in its hard-line policy toward Tehran.
"Of course, American bullying and political pressures may cause some disruption, but the fact is that in the current world, America is isolated," Mohammad Javad Zarif was quoted as saying by the semiofficial ISNA news agency.
Ahead of the U.S. announcement, the European Union issued a so-called blocking statute aimed at shielding European businesses from the reimposed sanctions. And in a joint statement, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and the foreign ministers of France, Britain, and Germany said they "deeply regret" the move.
The Iran deal is "crucial for the security of Europe, the region, and the entire world,” it said.
The U.S. measures taking effect on August 7 target Iran's automotive sector and renowned carpet-making industry, as well as its trade in gold and other metals. U.S. officials said the Iranian government would also no longer be able to buy U.S. dollars.
A second batch of U.S sanctions targeting Iran's oil sector are to be reimposed in early November.
Senior U.S. administration officials vowed that Washington would aggressively enforce the new sanctions, and they expect the measures to have a significant impact on the Iranian economy.
"There is no question that these financial sanctions are going to continue to bring significant financial pressure," an administration official said August 6.
Iran’s economy has rapidly deteriorated in recent months partially due to fears over the imposition of further U.S. sanctions, igniting street protests in many cities due to economic hardships.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters ahead of the White House announcement that the intensified pressure was designed to "push back against Iranian malign activity."
He also asserted that the social unrest was an indication of Iranians’ unhappiness with authorities.
"This is just about Iranians' dissatisfaction with their own government, and the president is pretty clear: We want the Iranian people to have a strong voice in who their leadership will be," he said.
Administration officials also criticized how Iranian authorities have responded to the social and labor protests.
"We are deeply concerned about reports of the Iranian regime’s violence against unarmed citizens," one official said. "The United States supports the Iranian people’s right to peacefully protest against corruption and oppression without fear of reprisal.”
Zarif, the Iranian foreign minister, tweeted that the U.S. sanctions on Iran were "endangering ordinary Iranians."
"The Trump Administration wants the world to believe it's concerned about the Iranian people. Yet the very first sanctions it reimposed have canceled licenses for sales of 200+ passenger jets under absurd pretexts, endangering ordinary Iranians. US hypocrisy knows no bounds," he wrote.
The Iranian rial has been particularly hard hit on expectations of U.S. restrictions on currency transactions.
Iranian state TV on August 5 said the country will ease its foreign-exchange rules in a bid to halt the collapse of the rial, which has lost about half its value since April.