ISTANBUL – The reintroduction of sanctions against Iran on Monday has led to what is likely to be a lengthy rhetoric and stalemate as the Trump government has threatened to put more pressure on Tehran and warn against rebuilding its nuclear program, Middle East experts said.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said in a preview of the word war that was likely to escalate, his country would continue to sell oil despite the sanctions. While state television on Monday delivered footage of armed forces for war exercises, Rouhani said Iran is in "economic warfare."
"We will be proud to break the sanctions," Rouhani said at a meeting of government officials in the Iranian capital.
In Washington, Foreign Minister Mike Pompeo said: "The Iranian regime has a choice. It can either make a 180 degree turnaround from its outlaw behavior and behave like a normal country, or it can collapse its economy. "
It will take many weeks or months before the effectiveness of the campaign against Iran can be judged with maximum pressure. However, it is already clear that the renewed sanctions are being greeted by threats thrown between Washington and Tehran as the two governments become more confrontational.
"Today we should look at the first day of an escalating campaign with maximum pressure, not a new status quo," said Richard Goldberg, consultant to the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. "We will put tremendous pressure on the regime to the point of considering negotiating with the Trump government, or the regime will collapse."
The sanctioning of hundreds of Iranian individuals, companies and organizations was the culmination of President Trump's decision in May to withdraw from the nuclear deal, which is officially known as the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Action Action).
The sanctions are directed against the Iranian oil, banks and shipping companies. However, many well-known banks and companies have been excluded from the list of more than 700 names, as well as entire sectors such as mining and computer science, which suggests a strategic decision to withhold some names for future sanctions.
Eight nations were temporarily released, including Iran's two largest oil customers, China and India. Turkey, which purchases natural gas from Iran, has also been exempted from sanctions. Exceptions were also granted for projects in three nuclear power plants, which suggest that Iran can reverse the course and resume its nuclear program.
US officials say their goal is to force the Iranian government to cease supporting militants in the region and finally renegotiate the nuclear deal created by the Obama administration.
However, it is uncertain if Iran would bow to American will under another round of pressure or if it can afford to simply wait until a new US President arrives.
Patrick Clawson, an Iran expert at the Washington Institute of Middle East Policy, said he recently met Iranians at a conference in Moscow that he believed were able to overcome the recent wave of sanctions.
"We can survive Trump" was a big issue, he said.
But in Tehran some inhabitants expressed concern about the future.
One man, a 45-year-old craftsman, said in a telephone interview that low salaries and high inflation mean that his family "can not even travel to our own villages" to visit relatives. He spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of state reprisals.
"I now work in two shifts, including the weekends, and we buy what we can afford without worrying about quality," he said.
Another resident, a 30-year-old woman working in a private distribution company, said over the phone that she pays exorbitant amounts on the black market for prescription drugs for her parents. She also spoke on the condition of anonymity to speak freely about the conditions in Iran.
Neither Iran nor the United States "want the best for the Iranian people," she said. "So I have no hope."
Rouhani prided himself on Iran's ability to continue selling oil, despite sanctions.
"The fact that the US has cleared eight countries of sanctions after threatening to zero Iran's oil exports is not that a victory for us? And is not that a retreat for the United States? "He said," The Islamic Republic of Iran can sell its oil and sell its oil even if the eight countries were not exempted from the sanctions. "
If anything, Iranian retaliation could be carried out by their militants in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Yemen or the Persian Gulf, where oil tankers and US Navy ships dominate the waters.
"They have hacked in the past to hack the Saudi infrastructure and they can attack the US infrastructure," he said. "I'm worried that they have devastated large corporations or financial institutions," said Cliff Kupchan, chairman of the Eurasia Group, a political risk consulting firm.
Kelsey Davenport, director of the Non-Proliferation Policy of the Arms Control Association, said there was a risk that the US would overreact to Iranian rhetoric.
Iran "will continue to remind the international community that if the deal breaks down or Iran is no longer useful, nuclear activities can be strengthened," she said. "It's important to distinguish between the rhetoric and the steps that actually hurt the deal."
It is unclear whether the re-imposed sanctions, which have been settled by a handful of countries in the world, will signal the end of the nuclear deal.
Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany, all of which have negotiated with the United States, insist they want to keep working. Iran has said it can go away and resume its nuclear program, a move few in the country expect from Tehran.
"Tehran has to calculate what will give them more leverage if they stick to the JCPOA or resume their frozen nuclear activities," said Karim Sadjadpour, a political analyst at Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. "In the first scenario, they risk carelessness. in the latter scenario, they risk being ruthless. "
The European Union is trying to develop an alternative "special purpose instrument" to continue trading with Iran, but has had difficulty finding a country ready to accept it. Even Europeans who regard the nuclear agreement as essential to their national security could ease their support after Danish authorities accused Iran of attempting to assassinate an Arab separatist leader living in Denmark.
Pompeo said that "several lines of effort" are being used to pressure Tehran and that this week's posts are not the last word. The administration is expected to name more names and aggressively enforce punishments by applying secondary sanctions to anyone doing business with them.
"These are the only two cards they need to play," said Adam M. Smith, a former US Treasury Department Adviser to the Office of Foreign Assets Control, overseeing sanction compliance. "Further sanctions and executions are the two coercive exercises of the US government. There is not much else they can do. "
Morello reported from Washington. James McCauley in Paris and Quentin Ariès in Brussels contributed to the report.