The Trump administration is set to reimpose all sanctions against Iran that had been lifted as part of the 2015 nuclear agreement, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Friday.
“On November 5th, the United States will reimpose sanctions that were lifted as part of the nuclear deal on Iran’s energy, shipbuilding, shipping, and banking sectors,” Pompeo said.
Pompeo also said the US will grant temporary waivers to eight “jurisdictions” from energy-related sanctions that will also be reimposed on Monday as the Trump administration seeks to ratchet up pressure on the Iranian regime.
The moves are part of what sources close to the administration describe as the US’ “economic war” on the Iranian regime, with one source saying it’s part of a broad effort to squeeze Tehran that includes regional pressure and covert action.
Pompeo himself promised on Friday, as he previewed the coming sanctions, that they were just one part of a deeper effort.
“The administration’s efforts to change Iranian behavior are far broader, far deeper. There are many other lines of effort,” he said. “We’re simply focused on this line of effort today because of the significance of November 5th.”
President Donald Trump was focused on sanctions Friday, following up on Pompeo’s comments by tweeting a “Game of Thrones”-style image of himself with the words “sanctions are coming.”
Later in the day, Trump told reporters at the White House that “as you know, sanctions are starting on Iran, and Iran is taking a very big hit. The country is not the same country as when I started almost two years ago. That is a very different country since I terminated that deal,” he said.
The top US diplomat, along with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, outlined the administration’s latest punitive steps against Tehran since leaving the Iran nuclear deal in May. The international agreement had been one of President Barack Obama’s signature achievements and a frequent target of Trump’s ire.
Hitting core areas
“These sanctions hit at core areas of Iran’s economy,” Pompeo said in a call with reporters. “They’re necessary to spur changes we seek on the part of the regime. In order to maximize the effect of the President’s pressure campaign, we have worked closely with other countries to cut off Iranian oil exports as much as possible.”
The Trump administration has laid out 12 conditions Iran must meet before Washington will lift sanctions, requirements that many analysts see as a call for regime change in all but name.
“We want to restore democracy there,” Pompeo said of Iran in a Wednesday interview with Laura Ingraham. In 1953, the US backed a coup that overthrew Iran’s democratically elected government and then supported the repressive rule of Shah Reza Pahlavi.
“We think the Iranian people want that same thing,” Pompeo continued to Ingraham. “And so our aim is not to harm the Iranian people, but to change the behavior, the malign activity of this regime.”
Mnuchin said that when the so-called snapback sanctions go into effect on Monday, more than 700 names will added to the Treasury Department’s list of blocked entities.
“This include hundreds of targets previously granted sanctions relief” under the nuclear deal, “as well more than 300 new designations,” he said. “This is substantially more than we have previously done.”
He said the sanctions will be reimposed on “individuals, entities, vessels and aircraft.” Mnuchin also said the list of banks will be “substantial longer” than those previously sanctioned before the Iran nuclear deal was put in place. A final list of institutions will be released on Monday, the secretary said.
The two Cabinet officials said exemptions would be made for humanitarian imports, which could include food, medicine and other items.
Both said Iran was already feeling the heat. Analysts agreed.
“There’s no doubt the country is on the verge of crisis, but I think we’re quite a ways away from being on the verge of collapse,” said Henry Rome, an associate with the Eurasia Group. “It’s the biggest crisis the Islamic Republic has faced since the Iran-Iraq war,” Rome said, adding that “the people are going to suffer greatly. They already have.”
No EU waiver
Pompeo said the eight jurisdictions being granted exemptions for energy related sanctions were on the list because they had “made important moves to get to zero crude oil importations.” He said they will be named on Monday.
The European Union will not be getting a waiver, Pompeo said. The EU, along with China, Russia, France, Germany and the UK, the other signatories to the deal, has staunchly opposed the US move to leave the 2015 nuclear agreement known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
On Friday, the EU, France, Germany and the UK issued a joint statement saying they “deeply regret the further re-imposition of sanctions by the United States.” The nuclear deal, which they still adhere to, “is crucial for the security of Europe, the region, and the entire world,” the group said.
Japan, South Korea and India are widely expected to be given exemptions to sanctions on Iranian energy imports. Pompeo said countries are getting waivers “only because they have demonstrated significant reductions in their crude oil, and cooperation on many other fronts, and have made important moves towards getting to zero crude oil importation.” He added that “these negotiations are still ongoing.”
According to Pompeo, six of the jurisdictions will import Iranian crude oil at “greatly reduced levels” and two will completely end their imports.
Mnuchin said Swift, a messaging service used by global banks, may face penalties if it fails to cut off designated institutions. “Swift could be subject to sanctions,” Mnuchin said. “Swift is no different than any other entity.”
Republican lawmakers had been pushing for the Trump administration to cut Iran’s access to the global financial service as part of Monday’s sanctions.
Analysts have suggested that cutting Iran off from Swift would be one of the best ways to ensure that financial sanctions imposed by the US government have bite. Severing Iranian banks’ ties to Swift would prevent those institutions from transferring money to and from the rest of the world.
The US government has advised Swift to stop providing services to certain designated Iranian entities as part of its maximum pressure campaign against Tehran, but it is allowing it time to wind down those services, the secretary said.
Transactions tied to humanitarian services will still be allowed under the sanctions agreement, but Mnuchin warned institutions to be “very careful” that they are not disguised financial transactions.