Fresh U.S. Sanctions On Iran Send Global Shockwaves, Israel Jubilant, Big Powers Upset
The reinstatement and expansion of sanctions against Iran by the Trump administration have triggered wide-ranging reactions worldwide. With negative impact of the sanctions to become gaugeable and sizable in months, Iran’s enemies and friends reacted variably proceeding from their national interests.
After almost a half year since Trump pulled his country out of the JCPOA deal, the U.S. slapped sanctions again on Iran on November 5, sending shockwaves across the world.
One voice heard distinctly among others is of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who called the sanctions as a “historic” moment for Israel and the world. The Israeli prime minister has long been an ardent advocate of strong sanctions on Iran and November 5 was probably a moment of victory for him, who has long argued that stiff economic sanctions - not the Iranian nuclear deal - is the most effective strategy in halting “Tehran’s nuclear program and support for global terrorism”.
“This is a great day for the State of Israel,” Netanyahu told the Likud faction in the Knesset. “This is a great day for the people of Israel. This is a great day for the future of Israel. You know that for many years I have devoted my time and energy to the war against the Iranian threat. In this matter I went almost against the whole world. Today we see the results of this long and continuous struggle.”
Netanyahu called November 5 a historic day “on which the United States, led by President Trump, imposed the most severe sanctions on Iran, the most severe sanctions imposed on Iran since the beginning of the effort to stop its aggression.”
He then thanked the Trump “for a courageous, determined and important decision,” adding, “I think that this contributes to stability, security and peace. True, there can be more bumps along the way, but we must approach this very aggressively and from strength, also morally, economically and vis-à-vis security.”
The sanctions intensify a campaign led by President Trump that will force Iran to further limit its nuclear work and halt its ballistic missile program, as well as end its support for its proxy forces in Yemen, Syria, Lebanon and other parts of the Middle East.
In the meantime, the Trump administration has granted the waiver to several nations and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that South Korea, Taiwan, Turkey, Greece, Japan, China, India, Italy received (temporary) waivers, allowing them to continue to import Iranian crude oil though several other European nations that asked to be exempted did not get a waiver.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has also implicitly warned India and China that there would be consequences if the two countries continue to buy Iranian oil after the U.S. sanctions against Tehran went into effect today. Although this is far from anything specific, the comments came a couple of days after Russia’s Energy Minister Alexander Novak said that Russia will continue to buy Iranian crude and help Tehran sell it abroad. Because of this timing, some saw in Pompeo’s words a thinly veiled warning to Russia as well.
“We believe we should look for mechanisms that would allow us to continue developing co-operation with our partners, with Iran,” Novak said. Russia buys Iranian crude under an oil-for-goods swap deal inked in 2014 and then resells it to other countries. Asked if there were plans to expand the volume of oil traded, Novak said Moscow will first assess the effects of the sanctions before making a decision on this.
"With the oil, it's very interesting. We have the toughest sanctions ever imposed, but on oil we want to go a little bit slower because I don't want to drive (up) the oil prices in the world," he told reporters before flying to a campaign event. "This has nothing to do with Iran... I could get the Iran oil down to zero immediately but it would cause a shock to the market. I don't want to lift oil prices,” Trump said.
What come under U.S. sanctions
US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said that “today we sanctioned more than 700 individuals, entities, aircraft, and vessels. Over 300 of those sanctions are new targets. In addition, we are re-listing hundreds of individuals and entities that were previously sanctioned, granted sanctions relief under” the Iran deal.
More than 20 nations have already cut their oil imports from Iran, reducing purchases by more than one million barrels per day. Trump said he wants to impose sanctions on Iran's oil gradually, citing concerns about shocking energy markets and causing global price spikes.
The sanctions prohibit countries from conducting business with 50 Iranian banks and subsidiaries, more than 200 persons and vessels in its shipping sector, Tehran’s national airline, Iran Air, and more than 65 of its aircraft, the US Treasury said.
Trade with Iran in the fields of humanitarian goods, such as food and pharmaceuticals can continue, but measures imposed on banks as well as trade restrictions could make such items more expensive. In order to be the most effective, these stiff sanctions need global support, including from the other five world powers who signed the 2015 deal and have remained bound by it. This includes China, Russia, Germany, France and the UK.
China, a major oil buyer said it regretted the move. The EU, France, Germany and the UK said they would seek to protect European companies doing legitimate business with Tehran.
The United Arab Emirates, however, spoke in defense of Trump and posted a message on the website of their embassy in Washington. “The UAE will continue to work closely with the US, regional allies, and other responsible nations to apply all the tools of diplomacy and statecraft to hold Iran accountable for its destabilizing activities in the Middle East and beyond,” the UAE said.
Turkey’s initial reaction to the new wave of the U.S. sanctions on Iran was cautious. Treasury and Finance Minister Berat Albayrak said an official statement would be made in the coming hours and that Turkey would take action accordingly. “We have information that Turkey is one of those eight countries exempt from sanctions,” the minister said.
Iran is one of the most important energy partners of Turkey and Turkish officials have repeatedly said that despite sanctions Ankara would not stop buying energy resources from one of its key supplier as Iran is an important country in terms of energy. Separately, Vice President Fuat Oktay told Anadolu news agency that Turkey is dependent on petrol and energy.
“It is not meaningful or fair to expect all countries to comply with sanction decisions made in line with the interest of one country,” Oktay said. “When the winter comes, I should be able to satisfy my own country's energy needs. I cannot leave the country in the cold,” he added.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in a tweet chided the U.S. sanctions, saying they targeted a sunken ship as well as a bank that was shuttered six years ago. "In a desperate PSYOP to amplify the list of sanctioned Iranian entities - unintentionally also proving it is #TargetingOrdinaryIranians indiscriminately - the US designated a bank that was closed six years ago, and a ship that sank last year in a widely televised saga. #USisIsolated," Zarif’s post in English on 5 November read.
Greece said it will continue to import oil from Iran after it was - along with seven other countries - granted a temporary exemption from the sanctions Washington re-imposed on the Islamic republic on Monday.
Pompeo said that more than 20 nations have already reduced oil imports from Iran and that exports have dropped by a million barrels a day.
Japan – one of major buyers of Iran’s oil - has been temporarily exempted from the ban on Iranian oil imports, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told a joint news conference. Referring to the waivers, Pompeo said the administration will continue negotiations with the eight parties to end oil imports from what it calls the world's largest state sponsor of terrorism.
"Iran will never come close to getting a nuclear weapon on President Trump's watch," he said, vowing to step up the US-led campaign of economic pressure against Tehran.
Two of the eight parties will wind down Iranian oil imports to zero in "weeks" and the six others will import "at greatly reduced levels," Pompeo said Friday.
Japan had asked for a waiver during negotiations with the United States, saying its imports of Iranian oil have been recently falling. Takashi Tsukioka, president of the Petroleum Association of Japan, said in September that Japanese oil distributors would temporarily suspend oil imports from Iran until the end of the negotiations.
"Europe is convinced that Iran is fulfilling the conditions of the deal... The American sanctions have nothing to do with Iran's behavior. Everyone has their own worries, and for Trump the mid-term elections to Congress are right around the corner - here comes a pre-election special effect," Russia’s Rossiya 1 TV channel said, adding that the decision was deliberately timed as a "pre-election special effect".
It described Europe's reaction to the sanctions as a tense silence, noting that the continent's dissatisfaction was expressed in a joint statement by the European Commission, Germany, France and the UK.