‘“Win-win” or “lose-lose” – but we won’t let America turn it into “win-lose”.’ That, President Hassan Rouhani of Iran has told his Cabinet, is the predicament and choice faced by his country as a result of the ratcheting of economic and military pressure against it by the United States, as he announced an ‘ultimatum’ to remaining members of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (‘JCPOA’).
Shortly after, US President Donald Trump announced that he was imposing sanctions on Iran’s metal exports.
On 7 May, a statement issued in the name of the Supreme National Security Council of Iran read:
‘One year after the United States’ illegal withdrawal from the JCPOA, and violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions, that country has re-implemented its unilateral, illegal sanctions contrary to all internationally recognised principles. This blatant bullying behaviour of the US has, unfortunately, not been appropriately addressed by the Security Council or the remaining members,’ and in consequence, ‘The Islamic Republic of Iran does not commit itself to respecting the limits on the keeping of enriched uranium and heavy water reserves at the current stage.’
Iran said that remaining [P5+1 members] will be given 60 days ‘to fulfil their obligations,’ especially as regards the banking and oil industries, but, ‘if they fail to meet Iran’s demands in the time given, then the Islamic Republic of Iran will suspend compliance with the uranium enrichment limits and measures to modernise the Arak Heavy Water Reactor.’
In late April, the United States announced the end of the waiver granted some countries which import Iranian oil, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo vowing to apply ‘maximum pressure’ on the Iranian regime.
On 5 May, US national security adviser John Bolton announced that ‘in response to a number of [unspecified] troubling and escalatory indications and warnings, the United States is deploying the USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group and a bomber task force to the U.S. Central Command region to send a clear and unmistakable message to the Iranian regime that any attack on United States interests or on those of our allies will be met with unrelenting force.’
On 8 May, President Trump announced more sanctions on Iran – this time with respect to Iran’s iron, steel, aluminium, and copper sectors.
In a statement, he said: ‘Over the last month, the United States has taken several steps to increase the effectiveness of our campaign. We designated the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a Foreign Terrorist Organization and increased the pressure on Iran ten-fold through full application of United States sanctions on Iranian oil exports. Today’s action targets Iran’s revenue from the export of industrial metals – 10 percent of its export economy – and puts other nations on notice that allowing Iranian steel and other metals into your ports will no longer be tolerated.
‘Tehran can expect further actions unless it fundamentally alters its conduct. Since our exit from the Iran deal, which is broken beyond repair, the United States has put forward 12 conditions that offer the basis of a comprehensive agreement with Iran. I look forward to someday meeting with the leaders of Iran in order to work out an agreement and, very importantly, taking steps to give Iran the future it deserves.’
Sanctions lawyer Dario Gorji of the firm De Capoa & Partners in Bologna, Italy, told WorldECR:
‘From a legal point of view, Iran’s partial suspension of the nuclear deal would fall within the provisions of the JCPOA, signed in 2015. Sections 26 and 36 allow Iran to cease performing its commitments under the deal – in whole or in part – if a JCPOA participant re-introduces nuclear related sanctions and such a re-introduction constitutes a significant non-performance.’