Iranian President Hassan Rouhani pledged Monday that his country would not buckle under the weight of newly re-imposed U.S. sanctions, calling the penalties on its oil and banking sectors “unfair” and “against the law, U.N. resolutions and international accords.”
In a nationally televised address, Rouhani said that “we will proudly break the sanctions” that went into effect at midnight as a result of President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal earlier this year.
In Washington, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin shared more details about the sanctions, which they described as the strongest and most comprehensive ever imposed by the United States on Iran.
The latest round targets more than 700 individuals, entities, aircraft and vessels — above and beyond sanctions in place before the nuclear deal was struck in 2015. The Trump administration says its goal is to financially starve the Iranian government so that it fundamentally changes its behavior, including ending its support for terrorism.
However, eight “jurisdictions” were given waivers that allow them, for now, to keep importing oil from Iran: China, India, Italy, Greece, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Turkey. Pompeo noted that the U.S. will keep negotiating with these governments to eventually bring their Iranian oil imports down to zero.
Some of the places in question have relied heavily on oil from Iran, and analysts said the exemptions granted them would help keep oil markets stable as they wound down their purchases over time.
Three non-proliferation projects in Iran will also be allowed to continue under exemptions to the sanctions, Pompeo said. He did not give many details but said the exemptions would be “very narrow“ and “time-limited.”
The secretary of state said the United States remains interested in reaching a new agreement with Iran that covers its nuclear activities and other points of dispute. But Iran must “abandon its revolutionary course,” he said.
The U.S. sanctions are particularly harsh because they not only can be levied on Iranian businesses but also on entities outside Iran that do business in the Middle Eastern country. Although some European governments, including Britain, France and Germany, are seeking to find alternatives so that they can keep trade going with Iran, many international firms have nonetheless already pulled out of Iran to avoid hefty U.S. fines.
“We will be strictly enforcing our sanctions,” Mnuchin warned.
Trump teased the sanctions last week on Twitter with a photo-shopped reference to the TV show “Game of Thrones,” writing that “sanctions are coming.” Asked whether using such a meme was appropriate, Pompeo pointed to reports that Qassem Soleimani, a feared Iranian military leader, had used his own version of a “Game of Thrones” meme to respond to Trump, promising to “stand against” him.
“This is a man who has American blood on his hands,“ Pompeo said.
Over the weekend, Pompeo promised that the re-imposition of the sanctions will have the intended effect of altering Tehran’s behavior.
“I’m very confident that the sanctions that will be reimposed this Monday, not only the crude oil sanctions but the financial sanctions being put in place by the Treasury Department of over 600 designations of individuals and companies in Iran, will have the intended effect: to alter the Iranian regime’s behavior,” Pompeo said on “Fox News Sunday.” “That’s our expectation. It’s the reason for President Trump’s policy.”
A defiant Rouhani disputed that on Monday, arguing that the waivers already show that the White House’s threats are toothless.
“The Islamic Republic can sell its oil, and even if these eight countries weren’t exempted, we would have still sold our oil,” Rouhani said. “Isn’t that success?”
Article originally published on POLITICO Magazine