The US lifted the sanctions back in 2015 but the Trump administration will restore them despite the protests of European leaders.

By Daniel Herborn

Posted on August 7, 2018

Under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the sanctions were removed but Trump has said Iran continues to support terrorism and threaten the US. Further, he argues that lifting the sanctions failed to achieve the central objective of curtailing Iran’s nuclear program.

Back in May 2018, Trump signalled he would withdraw the US from JCPOA. The White House has now released a statement with a timeline for the sanctions to be reimposed.

The sanctions will prohibit any transactions with Iran involving US currency, gold, precious metals, aluminium, steel, commercial passenger aircraft and coal. They also end imports into the US of Iranian carpets and food.

The first phase of sanctions will be imposed on 7 August, with a second wave of sanctions, including prohibitions on dealing with Iran’s energy and shipping sectors as well as petroleum-related transactions and financial institutions, will come into place on 5 November.

“As we continue applying maximum economic pressure on the Iranian regime, I remain open to reaching a more comprehensive deal that addresses the full range of the regime’s malign activities, including its ballistic missile program and its support for terrorism,” Trump said in a written statement.

“We urge all nations to take such steps to make clear that the Iranian regime faces a choice: either change its threatening, destabilising behaviour and reintegrate with the global economy or continue down a path of economic isolation.”

Reaction to Trump reinstating sanctions on Iran

Hassan Rouhani, President of Iran, said he would be open to negotiations but questioned Trump’s willingness to come to the negotiating table after reinstating the sanctions.

“Negotiations at the same time as imposing sanctions, what meaning does that have?” Rouhani said.

On Twitter, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said lifting the sanctions had failed. “The regime must use Iran’s resources to help its citizens, not support terror & enrich the leadership,” he wrote. Pompeo had previously warned Iran the US would seek to apply “unprecedented financial pressure” to force it to abandon its nuclear ambitions.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu applauded the move on Twitter. “This is an important moment for Israel, the US, the region and the entire world.”

Israel has long been concerned about Iran attempting to procure a nuclear arsenal. Netanyahu had previously told the media Iran was “brazenly lying” about having abandoned its nuclear program. Israeli intelligence uncovered a cache of tens of thousands of documents purportedly detailing Iran’s ongoing nuclear development.

EU Foreign Ministers oppose the move

The move to reimpose the sanctions was far less popular across Europe. A joint statement by EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and the Foreign Ministers from France, Germany and the UK said the accord “is working and delivering on its goal”.

The statement continued: “It is a key element of the global nuclear non-proliferation architecture, crucial for the security of Europe, the region, and the entire world. We expect Iran to continue to fully implement all its nuclear commitments under the JCPO

The original move to withdraw the US from JCPOA was opposed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, British Prime Minister Theresa May and French President Emmanuel Macron, who issued a joint statement expressing their “regret and concern” over the US intention to withdraw.

The UK later sent Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson to the US to make the case for the US remaining in the accord. He met with National Security Advisor John Bolton and Vice-President Mike Pence but not the President himself.

On 6 August, the EU updated its blocking statute which aims to protect European firms from penalties imposed by the US for doing business with, or in, Iran. In some instances, companies could be penalised if they comply with US sanctions.

“We are determined to protect European economic operators engaged in legitimate business with Iran,” the Foreign Ministers said in their statement.