US Reimposition of Sanctions on Iran, Put Simply

By Campaign Agent Charlotte Davies 

Withdrawing from the 2015 nuclear deal, the US has announced that it will reimpose economic sanctions on Iran. The 2015 nuclear deal will be revoked by the US in the hope that it will encourage Iran to change “its threatening, destabilising behaviour and reintegrate with the global economy”.

With effect from 04:01 GMT on 7th August, measures are to be put into place which target transactions related to the Iranian rial, activities related to Iran’s issuance of sovereign debt as well as other key industries- including its gold trade, and raw materials used in industrial processes. More sanctions are likely to be imposed this autumn, including Iran's port operators and energy, shipping, and shipbuilding sectors, petroleum-related transactions, and transactions by foreign financial institutions with the Central Bank of Iran.

The UK, France and Germany, which were all parties to the 2015 nuclear agreement have expressed deep regret at the US move, voicing how crucial the agreement was for ensuring global security. “Preserving the nuclear deal with Iran is a matter of respecting international agreements and a matter of international security”, they said. The 2015 nuclear deal, agreed upon by the UN security council and the EU, evolved amid increasing tensions surrounding Iran’s nuclear capabilities and intentions to build a nuclear bomb. Despite the fact that Iran always claimed that its nuclear programme was peaceful, the UN security council and the EU didn’t trust Iran’s motives. Thus, the ‘joint comprehensive plan of action’ (JCPOA) was developed in an effort by the supranational bodies to foster a safer world. As part of the 2015 deal, Iran had to reduce its stockpile of low-enriched uranium by 98% to just 300lbs, far below what would be required to produce a single bomb.

Despite this agreement, individuals such as Trump have heavily criticised the 2015 deal, labelling it ‘the worst deal ever’. He expressed particular concern over the expiry dates on the agreements; currently, the agreement prevents Iran accumulating enough fuel to build a nuclear weapon until 2030. However, Trump argued this was not long enough. At the same time, it has been noted that the agreement does not take into consideration the Iranian ballistic missile programme. Therefore, Trump is hoping the reintroduction of economic sanctions will encourage Iran to cave on its nuclear enrichment efforts, decrease its investment in its weapons program and end its support for certain governments in the Middle East. However, other world powers have suggested that delaying the Iranian issue another ten years or so would have been the most favoured option to maintain global security. It is possibly more favourable than provoking a conflict in the near future. 

In response to the move, the EU announced a “blocking statute”, which aims to protect European companies that continue doing business with Iran from secondary sanctions. This, officials argued, is essential to upholding the value of freedom of enterprise. Whether this response will be successful remains to be seen; some argue it will merely create legal burdens for Europe based companies and have little impact on America’s ability to target their US branches and assets. 

Perhaps, what Trump’s disillusionment with the 2015 nuclear agreement, coalescing with Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates on this major strategic decision demonstrates, is how little influence Europe now has on this administration. Trump’s decision is likely to further increase already existing tensions in the Middle East. Karim Sadjadpour, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, forewarned of increasing the likelihood of three different but equally “cataclysmic events: An Iranian war, an Iranian bomb or the implosion of the Iranian regime”. It remains to be seen whether the deal can survive the US withdrawal; Iran has said the deal could survive US sanctions provided countries party to the deal meet certain conditions e.g. protecting Iran’s oil trading and banking and agreeing not inhibit Iran’s regional activities or ballistic missile programme. EU has vowed to protect firms which do business with Iran

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