U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday told Iran to change its “destabilising” behaviour or risk further economic isolation, hours before the reimposition of sweeping sanctions against Tehran, though he left the door open to a new deal.
Mr. Trump pulled Washington out of the historic 2015 multilateral accord in May, to the consternation of his European partners. Against a backdrop of political turmoil and protests in Iran, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif accused Mr. Trump of “bullying” and of being isolated in his hostility to the Islamic Republic.
A first phase of U.S. sanctions against Iran went into effect midnight, targeting Iran’s access to U.S. banknotes and key industries including cars and carpets.
“The Iranian regime faces a choice,” Mr. Trump said in a statement. “Either change its threatening, destabilising behaviour and reintegrate with the global economy, or continue down a path of economic isolation.” “I remain open to reaching a more comprehensive deal that addresses the full range of the regime’s malign activities, including its ballistic missile programme and its support for terrorism,” he added.
Renewed U.S. hostility has already sparked a run on Iran’s currency, which has lost around half its value since Mr. Trump’s announcement. It has added to tensions inside Iran, which has seen days of protests and strikes in multiple towns and cities over water shortages, high prices and wider anger at the political system.
Mr. Zarif lashed out at Mr. Trump, but acknowledged there were difficult times ahead. “Of course, American bullying and political pressures may cause some disruption, but the fact is that in the current world, America is isolated,” Mr. Zarif told reporters, according to the semi-official ISNA agency.
EU diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini said the bloc, as well as Britain, France and Germany, deeply regretted the move by Washington. “We are determined to protect European economic operators engaged in legitimate business with Iran,” she said in a statement.
Responding to Mr. Trump’s comments, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani said that Washington’s call for new nuclear negotiations at the same time the U.S. reimposes crippling sanctions “makes no sense”. “They want to launch psychological warfare against the Iranian nation and create divisions among the people,” he said in a televised interview.
‘Remove the knife’
He said Iran had “always welcomed negotiations” but that Washington would first have to demonstrate it can be trusted.
“If you’re an enemy and you stab the other person with a knife and then you say you want negotiations, then the first thing you have to do is remove the knife.” “How do they show they are trustworthy? By returning to the JCPOA,” he said, using the technical name for the 2015 nuclear deal.