Washington – Six months after slamming the door on Iran's nuclear deal, the United States confirmed on Friday that it would reinstate its toughest sanctions against oil and banks on Tehran on Monday, but doubts linger over this controversial "maximum pressure" campaign.
"President Donald Trump Reimposes Tougher Sanctions Never Adopted"to bend Iran, announced the White House.
The European Union (EU), France, the United Kingdom and Germany, signatories of the 2015 agreement designed to prevent the Iranian authorities from acquiring the atomic bomb, immediately regretted "deeply" this decision.
Last summer saw the return of a first train of measures lifted in 2015. The second component will come into effect on Monday. It is a question of sanctioning, by barring them access to the American market, all the countries or companies that will continue to buy Iranian oil or to exchange with the banks of the Islamic Republic.
"The goal is to deprive the regime of the revenues it uses to sow death and destruction around the world", said the head of the American diplomacy Mike Pompeo.
Eight countries will, however, be allowed to continue to buy Iranian oil for at least another six months, "because they have made great efforts to reduce their crude imports to zero"he said.
The list of these countries will be known Monday. At this stage, we know that the European Union as a whole is not part of it, but that it includes Turkey. Observers expect that exemptions will also be granted to South Korea, India, Japan and perhaps China.
– North Korean Strategy –
The Trump administration ensures that the implementation of the sanctions will be much more "agressive"than in the past, with fewer derogations and more controls.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said that 700 names would be added to the US blacklist, 300 more than those removed after 2015.
He also said that the United States wants to cut Iranian financial institutions hit by sanctions from the international banking system Swift, a vital link in the financial system.
"Swift must make a choice: subject to the threat of US sanctions or continue to facilitate transactions with blacklisted bankssays Behnam Ben Taleblu of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a hard-line campaigner.
"Sanctions will hurt", predicts a European diplomat, while Iran, its economy and especially the rial, its currency, have already been suffering for several months.it's the same battle plan as with Kim Jong Un and North Korea: sanctions, maximum pressure and then they are ready to negotiate".
The Trump administration does not hide its inspiration from this strategy, which it considers to be successful, the strong man of Pyongyang having committed himself to a "denuclearization"at a historic summit with the US president after a sharp tightening of international sanctions.
The Republican billionaire repeats that he is ready to meet the leaders of the Islamic Republic to negotiate a comprehensive agreement on the basis of 12 US conditions: much stronger and lasting restrictions on nuclear energy than the text of 2015, deemed lax by Washington , but also the end of the proliferation of missiles and activities deemed "destabilizing"from Tehran to the Middle East (Syria, Yemen, Lebanon …).
"It is wishful thinking", told AFP Ali Vaez, International Crisis Group."Despite economic pressure, Iranians have been able to continue supporting their regional allies for 40 years"since the Islamic revolution of 1979, he says.
– Blur on intentions –
Especially since the situation differs today from that of 2012, when Barack Obama imposed sanctions that will be restored.
At the time, "the world was united behind the sanctions against Iran"says Barbara Slavin, of the Atlantic Council think tank."This time it is the Trump administration trying to impose on the rest of the world a policy that most countries do not want."
The EU wants to help Iran to reap some economic benefits from its accession to the 2015 agreement, to prevent it from leaving in turn and revive the nuclear arms race. "Our work continues"and got"intensified in recent weeks", said Friday the Europeans.
Beyond the level of pressure that Americans can exert, the vagueness remains on their intentions. Mike Pompeo talked about "restore democracy"and, according to Ali Vaez, some want"a regime change in Tehran", with the risk of favoring the hard wing of Iranian power.
This strategy is further complicated by the recent cooling of relations with Saudi Arabia following the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Ryad is a key ally of Washington, who hoped to create a Strategic Alliance in the Middle East, bringing together Arab Gulf countries, Egypt and Jordan, to counter Shiite Iran.
"This project died together with Jamal Khashoggi", loose Barbara Slavin.