TEHRAN: US National Security Adviser John Bolton said there will be additional US sanctions on Iran after the Trump administration on Monday re-imposed oil and economic sanctions, but gave no other details.
“We’re going to have sanctions that even go beyond this. We’re not simply going to be content with the level of sanctions that existed under (former US President Barack) Obama in 2015,” Bolton said in an interview on Fox Business Network, according to a transcript. “More are coming.”
Iran reacted with air defense drills and a statement from President Hassan Rouhani that the nation faces a “war situation,” raising Mideast tensions as America’s maximalist approach to the country takes hold.
The sanctions end all economic benefits America had granted Tehran for its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, though Iran for now continues to abide by the accord that saw it limit its enrichment of uranium. While at the moment not threatening to resume higher enrichment, Iranian officials in recent months have made a point to warn the controversial process could resume at any time, faster than before.
The new American sanctions particularly hurt Iran’s vital oil industry, a crucial source of hard currency for its anemic economy. Its national currency has plummeted over the last year, sending prices for everything from mobile phones to medicine skyrocketing.
“Today, Iran is able to sell its oil and it will sell,” Rouhani vowed Monday as the sanctions kicked in.
However, the noose of American sanctions appeared to be tightening. Iranian officials, meanwhile, reported a cyberattack targeting the country’s communication infrastructure, blaming the purported attack on Israel.
Iranian state television 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. It included surface-to-air missiles shooting down a drone.
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.
Rouhani, meanwhile, pledged to government officials in comments aired on state TV that Iran would overcome the sanctions.
“We are in the war situation,” Rouhani said. “We are in an economic war situation. We are confronting a bullying enemy. We have to stand to win.” He further stepped up the rhetoric, comparing Iran’s situation in the 1980s war against Iraqi ruler Saddam Hussein with the current one and Trump’s move to reinstate US sanctions.
“Yesterday, Saddam was in front us, today Trump is front of us. There is no difference. We must resist and win,” he said.
Iran is already in the grip of an economic crisis. Its national currency, the rial, now trades at 150,000 to $1, down from when it traded around 40,500 to $1 a year ago. The economic chaos sparked mass anti-government protests at the end of last year which resulted in nearly 5,000 reported arrests and at least 25 people being killed. Sporadic demonstrations still continue.
Rouhani separately said leaders from “four powers” met with Iran on the sidelines of the September meeting of the UN General Assembly to try to save the deal, including brokering a possible meeting with Trump. He did not name those countries, but was likely referring to China, France, Russia and Britain, which along with Germany made up the world powers involved in the 2015 nuclear deal.
“This issue does not require a mediator,” Rouhani said, blaming America for unilaterally pulling out of the accord.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi also predicted the sanctions will actually work against America’s interests.