LONDON: Iran is staring into the economic abyss as the US today restores crippling sanctions that have already sparked protests countrywide and sent the value of the Iranian rial tumbling.
The US Treasury Department’s new sanctions are wide-ranging and block Tehran from acquiring US dollars, and trading in gold and other precious and industrial metals.
They also cover the automotive sector and debt markets — effectively preventing the country from seeking relief at home by raising international capital. The measures even extend to the sale of pistachio nuts and Persian rugs. Further sanctions targeting the banking and energy sectors will follow on Nov. 4.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Iran had treated its people “very poorly” as he wrapped up a three-day trip to Southeast Asia in Indonesia.
“President Trump has always said he is prepared to talk, but it’s important that Iran has to be committed to changing its ways in order for those discussions to prove of any value,” he said.
The crisis has led to protests around the country demanding regime change. Iranians complain that they face economic deprivation while their government squanders cash on military adventures in Lebanon, Syria and Yemen.
Iran has witnessed angry protests over the past week over rampant inflation that is being made worse by the weakening of the Iranian currency.
Footage posted online showed people in Tehran shouting: “Death to the dictator,” in a reference to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
President Donald Trump announced in May that the US was withdrawing from an international accord struck in 2015 under which sanctions would be lifted in return for curbs to Iran’s nuclear program.
Meanwhile corporations have been racing to finalize deals before sanctions resumed and Iran bought five new commercial planes on Sunday. The ATR72-600 aircraft are made by a company jointly owned by European consortium Airbus and Italy’s Leonardo.
Tensions have risen in the Arabian Gulf and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps confirmed on Sunday they had held war games in the region in recent days. A US military spokesman said they had detected increased Iranian naval activity in the Gulf.