WASHINGTON -- U.S. sanctions that kicked in early Tuesday against Iran are meant to pressure Tehran's government into retreating from its support for international terrorism, its military activity in the Middle East and its ballistic missile and nuclear-related programs, President Donald Trump's national security adviser said.
The first set of U.S. sanctions that had been eased under a landmark Iran nuclear accord targets financial transactions involving U.S. dollars, Iran's automotive sector, the purchase of commercial airplanes and metals, including gold.
Additional sanctions on Iran's oil sector and central bank are to be reinstated in early November.
The sanctions went back into effect under an executive order Trump signed three months after he pulled the U.S. out of the 2015 international accord limiting Iran's nuclear activities. Trump called the deal, signed by former President Barack Obama's administration, "horrible."
John Bolton, the U.S. national security adviser, said Tuesday that the intent of sanctions is not to bring about Iranian "regime change."
"But we definitely want to put maximum pressure on the government, and it's not just to come back to discuss fixing a deal that's basically not fixable, dealing with the nuclear weapons aspect," Bolton said Tuesday on Fox News. "We want to see a much broader retreat by Iran from their support for international terrorism, their belligerent activity in the Middle East and their ballistic missile, nuclear-related program."
"There's a lot going on here that Iran needs to be held accountable for," he said.
In a morning tweet, Trump said the reimposition of sanctions means, "Anyone doing business with Iran will NOT be doing business with the United States."
"I am asking for WORLD PEACE, nothing less!"
The stiff economic sanctions ratchet up pressure on the Islamic Republic despite statements of deep dismay from European allies. Trump said the deal left the Iranian government flush with cash to fuel conflict in the Middle East.
Iran accused the U.S. of reneging on the agreement and of causing recent Iranian economic unrest. European allies said they "deeply regret" the U.S. action.
As the sanctions loomed, Trump said in a statement Monday: "We urge all nations to take such steps to make clear that the Iranian regime faces a choice: either change its threatening, destabilizing behavior and reintegrate with the global economy, or continue down a path of economic isolation."
Trump warned that those who don't wind down their economic ties to Iran "risk severe consequences."
Bolton denied any worsening of U.S. relations with Europe, saying the administration has been in "constant communication with them" over the issue.
"We all still share the same objective of making sure that Iran doesn't get deliverable nuclear weapons," he said.
On Tuesday, German car and truck maker Daimler AG said it was suspending its "very limited" activities in Iran and shuttering a representative office. European companies had known since Trump's announcement in May that sanctions were returning.
Airbus at that time suspended plane deliveries to Iran; of 98 orders, only one A321 had been delivered, plus two A330s that were sold to a company that leased them to an Iranian customer.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Iran still can rely on China and Russia to keep its oil and banking sectors afloat. Speaking in a television interview, he also demanded compensation for decades of American "intervention" in the Islamic Republic.
U.S. officials have insisted the American government stands with the people of Iran and supports many of their complaints against their government.
'NOTHING IS CLEAR'
In Iran, people appeared uncertain about what happens next.
The same goes for their theocratic government, which for now is abiding by the atomic accord. Rouhani, a relative moderate whose administration struck the 2015 deal, has taken an increasingly confrontational line in recent weeks, applauded by hard-liners who had long opposed him. Then in a live speech on television Monday night, Rouhani seemed to suggest that direct talks with Trump could be possible.
Whether Iran should choose to meet with the American president who backed out of the nuclear deal or abandon the unraveling accord and increase its uranium enrichment remains a fiercely debated question in Iran. But everyone agrees something has to be done soon, as sporadic protests across the country of 80 million people only add to the pressure.
"The situation is not good right now; nothing is clear," said Ebrahim Gholamnejad, a 41-year-old carpenter. "The economy is turning into a jungle."
As uncertainty over the Iran nuclear deal grew after Trump entered the White House, Iran's already-anemic economy nose-dived. The country's monthly inflation rate has hit double digits again and the national unemployment rate is 12.5 percent. Among young people, it is even worse, with around 25 percent out of a job.
Iran's currency, the rial, now trades over double its government-set rate to the U.S. dollar. Trying to stem the loss, the Iranian government five months ago shut down all private currency exchange shops, but the black market has thrived.
On Tuesday, central bank chief Abdolnasser Hemmati allowed private currency exchanges to reopen. Shops welcomed customers, though some displayed no exchange rates late into the morning as confusion arose over how much the troubled rial was truly worth.
Iranian authorities recently arrested 45 people, including the central bank's deputy chief, as part of a crackdown on financial fraud. On Tuesday, Iran's state-controlled television aired a 30-minute documentary applauding the central bank's new economic decisions.
The hard-line Keyhan newspaper, which previously lampooned Rouhani, bore his picture on the front page with a large headline quoting him saying: "The way we can surpass all sanctions is to have unity."
But what to do next remains an open question. Iran continues to abide by the nuclear deal, which limits its enrichment of uranium in exchange for the lifting of sanctions, and makes it impossible for Iran to quickly develop a nuclear weapon. Iran has always said its nuclear program is entirely peaceful.
In recent weeks, Iran has prominently displayed its centrifuges and threatened to resume enriching uranium at higher rates.
At one point Rouhani renewed a long-standing Iranian threat to close off the Strait of Hormuz, through which a third of all oil traded by sea passes.
Though Iranians already are angered by Trump putting their nation on his travel ban list, some say talks with the U.S. president might be necessary. Others insist that Iran, which has weathered decades of previous sanctions, should stand its ground.
"I believe America cannot do a d**n thing," said Farzaneh, a 54-year-old housewife who declined to give her last name out of privacy concerns. "It can't do anything, because Iranians are backing each other."
Direct talks with the U.S. also would challenge the Islamic Republic leadership, which for nearly 40 years has encouraged flag-burning demonstrations against "the Great Satan."
For now though, Iranians say they can only wait for the next Trump tweet or their government's decision on how to respond.
"People should just keep calm, because the other party wants to disrupt our peace," said Gholamnejad, the carpenter. "America, who imposed the sanctions, wants to create chaos."
Information for this article was contributed by Nasser Karimi, Ian Deitch, Amir Vahdat, Mehdi Fattahi, Jon Gambrell and David McHugh of The Associated Press.
A Section on 08/08/2018
Print Headline: Bolton asserts 'regime change' not goal for Iran