Iranian President Hassan Rouhani declared on Wednesday that he would begin to walk away from the restrictions of a 2015 nuclear deal, and the Trump administration responded with a new round of sanctions against Tehran, reviving a crisis that had been contained for the past four years, the New York Times informs.
The escalation of threats caught the United States’ allies in Europe in the crossfire between Washington and Tehran. And while Rouhani’s announcement did not terminate the landmark nuclear accord that was negotiated by world powers, it put it on life support.
Britain, France and Germany all opposed President Donald Trump’s move a year ago to withdraw the United States from the accord that limited Iran’s capacity to produce nuclear fuel for 15 years. Ever since, the Trump administration has ramped up a pressure campaign against Iran’s military and clerical leaders, including blocking global oil exports and expediting warships and B-52 bombers to the Persian Gulf this week to face down what officials described, without evidence, as a new threat by Tehran against American troops in the Middle East.
European officials had promised to set up a bartering system to evade American sanctions imposed against Iranian oil. But that effort has largely failed, even as Iran complied with its obligations under the agreement, from production limits to inspections, the Times adds.
On Wednesday morning in Tehran, Rouhani declared he had run out of patience.
“The path we have chosen today is not the path of war, it is the path of diplomacy,” he said in a nationally broadcast speech. “But diplomacy with a new language and a new logic.”
Rather than exit the deal entirely, he announced a series of small steps to resume the production of nuclear centrifuges and to begin accumulating nuclear material.
Rouhani also set a series of carefully calibrated deadlines for European leaders – essentially forcing them to either join the United States in isolating Iran or uphold the nuclear deal that world powers spent years negotiating with Tehran.
He said the Europeans had 60 days to assure that Iran could “reap our benefits” under the nuclear accord, by making up for lost oil revenues and allowing the country back into the international financial system.
If the Europeans agree, they will be subject to sanctions by the United States. If they dismiss Rouhani’s claims, he says Iran will take more dramatic steps, the Times noted.
Hours later, the White House announced that it was taking additional measures to squeeze Iran’s economy by imposing sanctions on its steel, aluminum, iron and copper sectors. Iran’s industrial metals industries account for about 10 percent of its exports, according to a Trump administration estimate.
Trump said in a statement that the move “puts other nations on notice that allowing Iranian steel and other metals into your ports will no longer be tolerated.”