At one minute after midnight, the first round of renewed U.S. sanctions on Iran took effect, and in one of his earliest tweets since the presidential campaign, at 5:30am EDT, a sleepless Trump blasted out the “official” US position on countries that ignore his just imposed sanctions: “The Iran sanctions have officially been cast. These are the most biting sanctions ever imposed, and in November they ratchet up to yet another level” Trump tweeted.
In a warning to China, India, Russia, Turkey and many other nations which have said they will defy Trump’s sanctions and continue to import Iran oil, Trump warned that “Anyone doing business with Iran will NOT be doing business with the United States.”
Then, pulling a page out of a John Lennon album, Trump explained “I am asking for WORLD PEACE, nothing less!”
The Iran sanctions have officially been cast. These are the most biting sanctions ever imposed, and in November they ratchet up to yet another level. Anyone doing business with Iran will NOT be doing business with the United States. I am asking for WORLD PEACE, nothing less!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 7, 2018
As a reminder, on Tuesday, following an executive order signed by Trump, the U.S. imposed new restrictions intended to stop the purchase of dollar banknotes by Iran, prevent the government from trading gold and other precious metals and block the nation from selling or acquiring various industrial metals. The measures, which took effect at midnight in Washington, also targeted the auto industry and banned imports of Persian carpets and pistachios to the U.S.
There were some signs Trump’s aggressive policy was already working. Yesterday, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani, under rising economic and political pressure, spurned President Donald Trump’s suggestion for talks with “no preconditions.” However, in a televised address on Monday night, Rouhani also said Iran is open to negotiations if the U.S. is “sincere,” but he added that such talks would be meaningless while his nation is being hit with sanctions. Trump and his top aides have raised the possibility of face-to-face discussions with Rouhani with “no preconditions.”
“Negotiations at the same time as sanctions, what meaning does that have?” Rouhani said. “It means someone is facing a person who’s a rival and enemy, if they use a knife and they stick the knife in their arm and then they say, ‘Let’s negotiate and let’s talk.’ The response to this is first all, they have to take the knife out and put the knife back in their pocket.”
Rouhani also scoffed that despite his offer for talks, Trump “is someone who, without any negotiation, has withdrawn from all of his international commitments,” from trade accords to the Paris climate agreement.
Iran’s Foreign Secretary Javad Zarif tweeted that 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.”
At the same time, Europe condemned Trump’s action saying it would block their effect for European companies. “We deeply regret the re-imposition of sanctions by the U.S., due to the latter’s withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA),” according to a statement Monday from the foreign ministers of the U.K., Germany, France and the European Union. “Preserving the nuclear deal with Iran is a matter of respecting international agreements and a matter of international security.”
Meanwhile, in an attempt to halt its sharp economic deterioration, Iran’s central bank scrapped most currency controls introduced this year on the eve of the U.S. move, in a bid to halt a plunge in the rial that has stirred protests against the government. As Bloomberg reports, under the measures, Iran’s central bank will let the market determine the rate of foreign-exchange transactions except the imports of essential goods and drugs, Governor Abdolnaser Hemmati told state television Sunday night. Licensed currency houses whose trading had been halted will be allowed to resume operations from Tuesday.
But the policies backfired, with the rial weakening from 40,000 at the start of the year, to more than 100,000 to the dollar on the black market this month.
That will come as good news to Trump, whose stated goal is to get the Iranian regime to stop meddling in countries from Syria to Yemen, halt its ballistic missile program and commit to stricter limits on its nuclear program, but the real intention, of course, is to overthrow the government, despite denials from the administration on the latter.
“We’re very hopeful that we can find a way to move forward, but it’s going to require enormous change on the part of the Iranian regime,” Secretary of State Michael Pompeo told reporters Sunday en route to Washington from Asia. “They’ve got to — well, they’ve got to behave like a normal country. That’s the ask. It’s pretty simple.”
Now the question turns to China – which has said repeatedly it will maintain trade ties with Iran – and how Trump will justify continuing to trade with Beijing under such conditions, and whether such defiance will prompt Trump to further escalate his trade war with the world’s second biggest economy.