Liberman: Reimposed Iran sanctions a ‘sea change’ for Mideast

Liberman: Reimposed Iran sanctions a ‘sea change’ for Mideast

Defense minister thanks Trump for dealing ‘critical blow’ to Tehran’s regional military presence, as Washington officially ends participation in nuclear deal

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman in the northern West Bank settlement of Ariel on October 30, 2018. (Hillel Maeir/Flash90)
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman in the northern West Bank settlement of Ariel on October 30, 2018. (Hillel Maeir/Flash90)

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman praised US President Donald Trump’s “bold” decision to reinstate all US sanctions on Iran that had been lifted under the 2015 nuclear deal.

Liberman said the renewed sanctions that took effect Monday targeting the country’s oil and financial sectors was the “sea change the Middle East has been waiting for.”

“In a single move, the United States is dealing a critical blow to Iran’s entrenchment in Syria, Lebanon, Gaza, Iraq and Yemen,” the minister posted in a rare English-language tweet. “President Trump, you’ve done it again! Thank you.”

Monday’s sanctions are the second batch the Trump administration has reimposed on the Islamic Republic since it withdrew from the nuclear agreement earlier this year. The rollback ends US participation in the Obama-era accord, which now hangs in the balance as Iran no longer enjoys the billions of dollars in sanctions relief it was granted under the deal in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program.

Israel, which considers Iran an existential threat and opposed the deal from the beginning, broadly welcomed the US’s exit from the deal and the reimposition of sanctions.

President Donald J. Trump signs an EO on Iran Sanctions in the Green Room at Trump National Golf Club Monday, August 6, 2018, in Bedminster Township, New Jersey. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

Over the weekend, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked Trump for taking “historic action” against the “murderous terror regime that endangers the entire world.”

“The effect of the initial sanctions is already being felt — the [local currency] is at a low, Iran’s economy is at a low and we’re already seeing results on the ground,” he said in video message posted Saturday.

Iran is already in the grip of an economic crisis. Its rial currency lost more than two-thirds of its value since May and now trades at 145,000 to one US dollar, down from 40,500 to $1 a year ago.

Iranian oil exports have fallen by about a million barrels in that time, though India and China have continued to purchase it. Most Europeans, as well as Japan and South Korea, have stopped.

In this June 25, 2018 file photo, a group of protesters chant slogans at the old grand bazaar in Tehran, Iran. (Iranian Labor News Agency via AP, File)

The economic chaos sparked mass anti-government protests at the end of last year that resulted in nearly 5,000 reported arrests and at least 25 people being killed.

Iran’s already-anemic economy is likely to suffer more under the fresh US embargo, though politicians and protesters struck a defiant tone.

On Monday, Tehran greeted the sanctions with air defense drills and an acknowledgement from President Hassan Rouhani that the nation faces a “war situation.”

In comments aired on state TV, Rouhani vowed the Islamic Republic would “proudly bypass [the] illegal, unjust sanctions because it’s against international regulations.”

State TV aired footage of air defense systems and anti-aircraft batteries in two-day military maneuvers underway across a vast stretch of the country’s north. The drill was to continue through Tuesday. Iranian army Gen. Habibillah Sayyari said both the national army and the country’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard were taking part in the exercise.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks during parliament’s open session on confidence vote for four new ministers, in Tehran, Iran, October 27, 2018. (Ebrahim Noroozi/AP)

Rouhani pledged to government officials in his remarks that Iran would overcome the US embargo.

“We are in the war situation,” he said. “We are in the economic war situation. We are confronting a bullying enemy. We have to stand to win.”

On Saturday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the decision to reimpose sanctions was “aimed at fundamentally altering the behavior of the Islamic Republic of Iran.” He has issued a list of 12 demands that Iran must meet to get the sanctions lifted, including an end to its support for terrorism and military engagement in Syria and a halt to nuclear and ballistic missile development.

But proponents as well as the other parties to the deal — Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia, and the European Union — have vehemently defended it. The Europeans have mounted a drive to save the agreement without the US, fearing that the new sanctions will drive Iran to pull out and resume all of its nuclear work.

France, Germany, Britain, and the European Union issued a joint condemnation Friday of the US move, vowing to protect European companies doing “legitimate” business with Tehran.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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