Trump Warns World Against Doing Business With Iran

US President Donald Trump in Arlington, Virginia                                                         JIM WATSON / AFP


US President Donald Trump warned countries against doing business with Iran on Tuesday as he hailed the “most biting sanctions ever imposed”, triggering a mix of anger, fear, and defiance in Tehran.

“The Iran sanctions have officially been cast. These are the most biting sanctions ever imposed, and in November they ratchet up to yet another level,” Trump wrote in an early morning tweet.

“Anyone doing business with Iran will NOT be doing business with the United States. I am asking for WORLD PEACE, nothing less.”

Within hours of the sanctions taking effect, German automaker Daimler said it was halting its business activities in Iran.

Trump’s withdrawal from a landmark 2015 nuclear agreement in May had already spooked investors and triggered a run on the Iranian rial long before nuclear-related sanctions went back into force.

“I feel like my life is being destroyed. Sanctions are already badly affecting people’s lives. I can’t afford to buy food, pay the rent…” said a construction worker on the streets of the capital.

The sanctions reimposed on Tuesday — targeting access to US banknotes and key industries such as cars and carpets — were unlikely to cause immediate economic turmoil.

Iran’s markets were actually relatively buoyant, with the rial strengthening by 20 percent since Sunday after the government relaxed foreign exchange rules and allowed unlimited, tax-free gold and currency imports.

But the second tranche on November 5 covering Iran’s vital oil sector could be far more damaging — even if several key customers such as China, India and Turkey have refused to significantly cut their purchases.

In a statement on Monday before the sanctions were reimposed, Trump said: “The Iranian regime faces a choice.

“Either change its threatening, destabilising behaviour and reintegrate with the global economy or continue down a path of economic isolation.

“I remain open to reaching a more comprehensive deal that addresses the full range of the regime’s malign activities, including its ballistic missile programme and its support for terrorism,” Trump said.

But his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani dismissed the idea of talks while crippling sanctions were in effect.

“If you’re an enemy and you stab the other person with a knife, and then you say you want negotiations, then the first thing you have to do is remove the knife,” he told state television..

“They want to launch psychological warfare against the Iranian nation,” Rouhani said. “Negotiations with sanctions doesn’t make sense.”

 ‘Legitimate business’ 

European governments are infuriated by Trump’s strategy, which leaves their businesses in Iran faced with the threat of US legal penalties.

British Foreign Office Minister Alastair Burt told the BBC that the “Americans have really not got this right”.

He said it was a commercial decision for companies whether to stay in Iran, but that Britain believed the nuclear deal was important “not only to the region’s security but the world’s security.”

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told reporters the global reaction to Trump’s move showed that the US was diplomatically “isolated”.

But many large European firms are leaving Iran for fear of US penalties, and Trump warned of “severe consequences” for firms and individuals that continued to do business with Iran.

Daimler said it had “suspended our already limited activities in Iran in accordance with the applicable sanctions”.

There is also mounting pressure at home, where US hostility has helped fuel long-running discontent over high prices, unemployment, water shortages and the lack of political reform.

Those protests have proliferated over the past week, though the verifiable information is scarce due to heavy reporting restrictions.

Poison cup 

Most Iranians see US hostility as a basic fact of life, so their frustration is largely directed at their own leaders for not handling the situation better.

“Prices are rising again, but the reason is government corruption, not US sanctions,” said Ali, a 35-year-old decorator in Tehran.

Many hope and believe that Iran’s leaders will need to “drink the poison cup” and negotiate with the US eventually.

There have been rumours that Trump and Rouhani could meet in New York in September on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly — though Rouhani reportedly rejected US overtures for a meeting at last year’s event.

Two countries that have welcomed the tough new US policy are Iran’s regional rivals, Israel and Saudi Arabia.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hailed the renewed sanctions as “an important moment for Israel, for the US, for the region, for the whole world.”

Iran’s currency has lost around half its value since Trump announced the US would withdraw from the nuclear pact.

But the last two days have seen an impressive 20 percent rally in the value of the rial after the government announced new foreign exchange rules and launched a corruption crackdown that included the arrest of the central bank’s currency chief.

The new rules mean exchange bureaus will reopen after a disastrous attempt to fix the value of the rial in April backfired spectacularly with corrupt traders making a fortune out of a mushrooming black market.


Iranians Blame Govt For Return Of US Sanctions

Iranians embark on a protest against the government’s policies. Credit: AFP


Many Iranians blame their own government for the return of US sanctions, but they also fear it could be the “final nail in the coffin” for the floundering economy.

Despite days of protests and strikes across the country, there appeared to be less unrest as sanctions returned Tuesday — although that said little about the depth of despair, particularly among poorer sections of society.

“I feel like my life is being destroyed. The economic situation right now means that the working class must die,” said Ali Paphi, a construction worker.

“Sanctions are already badly affecting people’s lives. I can’t afford to buy food, pay the rent… No one cares about workers.”

Much of the damage was already done in the weeks preceding the return of sanctions, as US President Donald Trump’s aggressive rhetoric spooked investors and triggered a run on the rial.

That only added to deep-seated problems of corruption, a chaotic banking system and rampant unemployment after decades of mismanagement.

“Prices have been increasing for three or four months and everything we need has become so expensive, even before sanctions returned,” said Yasaman, a 31-year-old photographer in Tehran.

Like many in the capital, he believes Iran’s leaders will be forced to return to the negotiating table, as Trump hopes.

“I hope it will happen one day. Most people believe the politicians will have to drink ‘the poison cup’ eventually,” said Yasaman.

That was a reference, widely heard in Iran these days, to the famous phrase used by Iran’s revolutionary leader Ruhollah Khomeini who said signing a truce to end the brutal eight-year war with Iraq in 1988 was like drinking “a cup of poison”.

Most Iranians have tuned out the endless US hostility, with which they have lived for four decades, so their anger is mostly directed at their own leaders.

“Prices are rising again, but the reason is government corruption, not US sanctions,” said Ali, a 35-year-old decorator.

Like many, he sees President Hassan Rouhani as powerless to improve things.

“He can’t solve the problems. It’s been shown several times that he is not the decision-maker in this country. Our problem is our representatives and system,” he added.

Wealthier and educated Iranians have also lost hope, but they have an option to leave — even if it weighs heavy on the heart.

Sogand, a young Iranian-American, came to live in Iran for the first time five years ago and had enjoyed the thaw in international tensions that accompanied the nuclear deal.

But in recent months, she grew worried about her status as a dual national — several have been arrested on espionage charges in Iran — and decided it was time to get out.

“I feel ashamed for abandoning my colleagues during this economic crisis. I feel guilty for having the resources to leave so quickly in front of my friends,” she said.

“(But) the economic destabilisation and the unravelling of any and all financial prospects in this country was the nail on the coffin.”


Iran Kicks, Petitions ICC Over US Sanctions

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani gives a speech in the city of Tabriz in the northwestern East-Azerbaijan province. ATTA KENARE / AFP


Iran has lodged a complaint with the International Court of Justice against the United States’ reimposition of sanctions, the foreign ministry said on Tuesday. 

The complaint was registered the previous day, spokesman Bahram Ghasemi said on the ministry’s website.

The goal is “to hold (the) US accountable for its unlawful re-imposition of unilateral sanctions,” Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif wrote on Twitter.

“Iran is committed to the rule of law in the face of US contempt for diplomacy and legal obligations. It’s imperative to counter its habit of violating (international) law,” he added.

The complaint came in response to Washington’s decision in May to abandon the 2015 nuclear deal and reimpose sanctions on Iran.

Tehran says the action violates international obligations, including the 1955 US-Iran Treaty of Amity — an agreement signed well before Iran’s 1979 revolution, but which is still invoked in ongoing legal battles.

Iran and the US have not had diplomatic relations since 1980, when American embassy officials were held hostage in Tehran.

Nuclear-related sanctions will be reimposed by Washington in two phases in August and November, seeking to bar European and other foreign companies from doing business with Iran and blocking its oil sales abroad.

Iran and the other signatories to the 2015 agreement have been scrambling to preserve the limited trade deals they were able to secure since it was signed.

Zarif addressed world diplomats and Iranian businessmen at a lavish Tehran hotel on Monday night, in a meeting designed as a show of continued mutual support in the face of US aggression.

“This administration in the United States doesn’t know how to behave towards the world… it breaks international treaties as a tool. It is necessary to put a stop to this behaviour,” Zarif said.

Austrian ambassador Stefan Scholz, whose country currently holds the presidency of the European Union, said “unorthodox and innovative measures” were being considered to allow banking transactions to continue after US sanctions return.

“We are all in this together, since the EU is facing a net loss of 10 billion euros ($11.7 billion) in lost trade with Iran next year,” Scholz said.

The ICJ is already due to hear a complaint on October 8 that Iran lodged two years ago against the United States for freezing around $2 billion of its assets held abroad.


US Sanctions On Iran Endangers Region – France

French Foreign Affairs Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian attends a meeting on the International Partnership against Impunity for the Use of Chemical Weapons, in Paris, on May 18, 2018.
Christophe Petit Tesson / EPA POOL / AFP


French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Wednesday that the United States risks further destabilising the Middle East after Washington warned Iran faced the “strongest sanctions in history”.

“The sanctions to be launched against Iran will not foster dialogue, on the contrary, they will boost the importance and power of Iran’s conservatives and weaken president (Hassan) Rouhani, who wanted to negotiate,” Le Drian told France Inter radio. “Finally, this stance is likely to put the region in further danger than it is today.”


New United States Sanctions Targeted At Russians

The Russian Embassy in Washington, DC                          Photo Credit: ZACH GIBSON / AFP


A new round of United States sanctions targeting oligarchs and businesses is “aimed at the Russian people,” Russia’s US embassy said Friday.

“We are told that these measures are not aimed against the Russian people, but they are,” the embassy said on its Facebook page, calling the measures “a new blow to Russo-American relations.”

Washington on Friday imposed new sanctions on seven oligarchs accused of supporting and profiting from what it said were Russian President Vladimir Putin’s efforts to undermine Western democracies.

Senior US officials described the measures as being aimed at Putin’s “inner circle” and said any assets held by the businessmen in areas under US jurisdiction would be frozen.

Those hit by sanctions include metals magnate Oleg Deripaska, described as operating for the Russian government, as well as Alexei Miller, director of state-owned energy giant Gazprom.

In all, President Donald Trump’s administration targeted seven oligarchs, 12 companies they own or control, 17 senior Russian officials and a state-owned arms export company.

The sanctions follow weeks of tit-for-tat diplomatic measures between Russia and Western states following the poisoning of a Russia former double agent in Britain last month.

The US said however that Friday’s action was taken under a law passed to punish Russia for its alleged bid to interfere in the 2016 US presidential vote, as well as its intervention in conflicts in Syria and Ukraine.

“With these sanctions, we see the United States’ desire to divide Russian society,” Russia’s embassy said.

“But they won’t work. Under external pressure, the country has always rallied around its leader.”

The speaker of Russia’s State Duma lower parliament, Vyacheslav Volodin, said the sanctions “aimed to weaken Russia and its economy”.

His deputy Piotr Tolstoy said the raft of measures “will cause a deterioration in already difficult relations.”

For his part, Gazprom boss Miller said that his inclusion on the sanctions blacklist meant he was “doing everything right.”


US To Place Sanctions On Burundi Officials Over Violence

US To Place Sanctions On Officials Over Burundi ViolenceConcerned by the rapidly escalating violence in Burundi, the United States says it will place sanctions on four current and former officials in the African country.

They include the Minister of Public Security, Alain Bunyoni and the Deputy Director of the National Police, Godefroid Bizimana.

The other two are former Intelligence Chief, Godefroid Niymombare and former Defence Minister, Cyrille Ndayirukiye.

The four will face an asset freeze and visa restrictions.

The US says President Pierre Nkurunziza’s pursuit of a third term has “precipitated” violence which has left at least 240 dead since April.

The violence increased in recent weeks, with bodies found on the streets on a daily basis.