Iran has greeted the re-imposition of United States sanctions with air defence drills and an acknowledgement from President Hassan Rouhani the nation faces a “war situation”, raising tensions in the Middle East.
- Oil and financial sanctions expected to further damage Iran’s struggling economy
- China and EU both expressed opposition to sanctions
- US says 8 countries will be allowed to temporarily keep buying Iran’s oil
The oil and financial sanctions end all the economic benefits the US granted to Tehran for its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, even though Iran has been abiding by the accord that saw it limit its enrichment of uranium.
While currently not threatening to resume higher enrichment, in recent months Iranian officials have made a point to threaten that it could resume at any time faster than before.
The new US sanctions are expected to hurt Iran’s vital oil industry, a crucial source of hard currency for a country already in the grip of an economic crisis.
Its national currency has plummeted over the past year, sending prices for everything from mobile phones to medicine skyrocketing.
Mr Rouhani was defiant as the sanctions kicked in, vowing Iran would continue to sell its oil.
“America wanted to cut to zero Iran’s oil sales … but we will continue to sell our oil … to break sanctions,” he said.
Thousands of Iranians rallied in Tehran to mark the anniversary of the US Embassy takeover by militant Iranian students. (AP: Vahid Salemi)
Iranian state television aired footage of air defence systems and anti-aircraft batteries in two-day military manoeuvres underway across a vast stretch of the country’s north.
Army General Habibillah Sayyari said both the national army and the country’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard were taking part in the exercise.
Mr Rouhani, meanwhile, pledged to government officials in comments aired on state television that Iran would overcome the sanctions.
“We are in the war situation,” he said. “We are in the economic war situation.”
Iranian demonstrators burn representations of the US and Israeli flags during a rally in front of the former US embassy. (AP: Vahid Salemi)
“We are confronting a bullying enemy. We have to stand to win.”
China and the European Union have both expressed opposition to the US sanctions.
“The European Union does not approve of it,” European Economic Affairs Commissioner Pierre Moscovici told franceinfo radio, hours after the sanctions came into force.
Speaking at a daily news briefing in Beijing, Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said China’s lawful trade cooperation with Iran should be respected, and expressed regret at the re-imposition of sanctions.
Washington’s decision to restore all sanctions lifted under the 2015 nuclear deal has not been well received in Iran. (AP: Vahid Salemi)
The US has said it will temporarily allow eight importers to keep buying Iranian oil, with China, India, South Korea, Japan and Turkey — all top importers — expected to be among those given temporary exemptions to ensure crude oil prices are not destabilised.
The US said the sanctions were not aimed at toppling the Government, but persuading it to radically change its policies, including its support for regional militant groups and its development of long-range ballistic missiles.
However, President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, and National Security Adviser John Bolton both have made public statements supporting overthrowing Iran’s theocratic Government.