WASHINGTON — US President Donald Trump has signed an executive order to restore nuclear-related sanctions on Iran, increasing economic pressure on Tehran and renewing his criticism of what he called a “horrible, one-sided” nuclear deal, the White House announced Monday.
The sanctions, which will go into effect at midnight, target the use of dollars in Iran, the automotive sector and trade in gold and precious metals. A second round of more comprehensive sanctions will go into effect on November 5.
Trump said US policy is to levy “maximum economic pressure” on the country, while hoping for new negotiations between Iran and the United States that would result in another, more wide-ranging, accord.
“As we continue applying maximum economic pressure on the Iranian regime,” Trump said, “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 repeated his criticisms of the deal, and argued that Iran’s behavior since the pact was implemented has vindicated his long-held position.
“The JCPOA, a horrible, one-sided deal, failed to achieve the fundamental objective of blocking all paths to an Iranian nuclear bomb, and it threw a lifeline of cash to a murderous dictatorship that has continued to spread bloodshed, violence, and chaos,” Trump said.
“Since the deal was reached, Iran’s aggression has only increased. The regime has used the windfall of newly accessible funds it received under the JCPOA to build nuclear-capable missiles, fund terrorism, and fuel conflict across the Middle East and beyond.”
Following Trump’s announced US departure from the deal in May, the White House has, through 17 rounds, sanctioned 38 Iran-related targets.
The objective, the administration has indicated, is to change Iranian behavior.
“Reimposition of nuclear-related sanctions through today’s actions further intensifies pressure on Tehran to change its conduct,” Trump said Monday.
Jerusalem cheered the move, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu calling on Europe to follow suit.
Meanwhile, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman wrote on his Twitter account: “This courageous decision will be remembered for generations.”
In May, Trump withdrew the United States from the Iran nuclear deal forged under the Obama administration and with five other world powers, a move that set in motion a renewal of sanctions against Iran that had been removed once the landmark accord was implemented in January 2016.
Speaking to reporters en route from a three-nation trip to Southeast Asia, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the reimposition of certain sanctions is an important pillar in US policy toward Iran.
He said the Trump administration is open to looking beyond sanctions, but that would “require enormous change” from Tehran.
“We’re 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,” he said on Sunday. “They’ve got to behave like a normal country. That’s the ask. It’s pretty simple.”
European foreign ministers said Monday they “deeply regret” Washington’s reimposition of sanctions.
A statement by European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and foreign ministers of France, Germany and the United Kingdom insisted that the 2015 Iran nuclear deal “is working and delivering on its goal” of limiting Iran’s nuclear program.
The ministers said the Iran deal is “crucial for the security of Europe, the region and the entire world.”
A senior administration official said the United States is “not particularly concerned” by EU efforts to protect European firms from the reimposition of sanctions.
The official was not authorized to discuss the matter by name and spoke Monday on condition of anonymity.
The European Union issued a “blocking statute” Monday to protect European businesses from the impact of the sanctions.
The Trump official said the US will use the sanctions aggressively and cited Iran’s severe economic downturn this year as evidence the sanctions would prove to be effective despite opposition from the EU, China and Russia.
Pompeo called the Iranian leadership “bad actors” and said Trump is intent on getting the regime to reform.
Two weeks ago, though, Trump indicated that he was willing to meet with Iran’s leaders at any time and without any preconditions.
“I would certainly meet with Iran if they’re ready to meet,” Trump said during a White House press conference, adding that he was willing to do so with “no preconditions.”
The week before, Trump tweeted at Iranian President Rouhani that Iran would “suffer consequences the likes of which few throughout history have ever suffered before,” in a dramatic all-caps tweet.
To Iranian President Rouhani: NEVER, EVER THREATEN THE UNITED STATES AGAIN OR YOU WILL SUFFER CONSEQUENCES THE LIKES OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED BEFORE. WE ARE NO LONGER A COUNTRY THAT WILL STAND FOR YOUR DEMENTED WORDS OF VIOLENCE & DEATH. BE CAUTIOUS!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 23, 2018
His tweet was ostensibly a response to a speech Rouhani gave the night before in which he threatened that the United States would experience the “mother of all wars” if it entered into an armed confrontation with Iran.