WASHINGTON/LONDON, (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump yesterday imposed new sanctions on Iran, targeting revenue from its exports of industrial metals, the latest salvo in tensions between Washington and Tehran over a 2015 international accord curbing the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program.
Iran had announced hours earlier that it was relaxing some restrictions on its nuclear program, steps that stopped short of violating the deal with world powers for now, but threatening more action if countries do not shield it from U.S. sanctions.
An executive order issued by Trump covers Iran’s iron, steel, aluminum, and copper sectors, the government’s largest non-petroleum-related sources of export revenue and 10 percent of its export economy, a White House statement said.
“Tehran can expect further actions unless it fundamentally alters its conduct,” Trump said.
The administration says the nuclear deal, negotiated by Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama, was flawed as it is not permanent, does not address Iran’s ballistic missile program and does not punish it for waging proxy wars in the Middle East.
Tensions between the two countries were already high when the Trump administration said last weekend that it was deploying a carrier strike group and bombers to the Middle East in response to what it said were “troubling indications and warnings” from Iran.
On Wednesday, a senior administration official said the United States was “not escalating militarily against Iran” and accused Iran of being “provocative.” It was in Iran’s best interests to continue complying with the pact, the official said.
The executive order effectively bans entities from the purchase, acquisition, sale, transport, or marketing of those minerals and their products from Iran or face sanctions.
It also says any individuals and entities would be subject to U.S. sanctions if they knowingly engaged in a significant transaction for the sale, supply, or transfer to Iran of significant goods or services used in connection with those industrial metal sectors.
The U.S. Treasury said it was allowing a 90-day winding down period for transactions related to Iran’s metals sectors and warned against entering into any new business after May 8, saying that would not be considered a wind-down activity.
A year ago, Trump unilaterally withdrew the United States from the nuclear deal signed by Iran, Russia, China, Britain, France, Germany and the United States. The accord relaxed international sanctions on Iran in return for Tehran accepting curbs on its nuclear program that were designed to prevent it from developing nuclear weapons. Tehran has said it pursued a peaceful nuclear program only.