Whatever criticisms of the president aside, one thing is clear: there has certainly been a follow up on promises made.
The president ran his campaign with a strong emphasis on clamping down on Iran. In May, Trump nixed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the Obama-era nuclear deal, despite pressure from members of his own cabinet to maintain the agreement. Some two months later in August, the first round of sanctions against Iran kicked in, re-introducing the restrictions placed on the Islamic Republic prior to JCPOA. The initial economic effects of Trump’s strategy began to be felt in Iran almost immediately. The Iranian rial plummeted to a fraction of its former value, hitting a record low of 128,000 to the dollar in September. The hit sustained by the market triggered yet another round of public protests throughout Iran over the summer.
During this whole period, the “real” sanctions targeting Iran’s most vital industries had yet to be introduced. On 2 November, the White House finally announced the second round of sanctions on Iran. The new restrictions target Iran’s “critical sectors” including shipping, banking, and of course, the bedrock of the country’s economy, energy.
According to the official press release, the new restrictions represent the “toughest sanctions ever” imposed on Iran.
There are several important implications of Trump’s most recent move.
Likely, the most important point is that the administration is re-affirming it’s strategic stance on Iran, that is to say, namely the view that the biggest threat Iran poses is not (and never was) its nuclear aspirations but rather its persistent funding and otherwise supporting of militancy throughout the region. As the White House press release stated, the campaign of “economic pressure” on Iran was designed to “deny the regime the funds it needs to advance its bloody agenda.”
The second element brought up by Trump’s Iran sanctions is the consequences on global oil markets. Around five percent of global oil production comes out of Iran. As of 2017, Iran was said to possess eleven percent of the world’s total crude reserves. Slapping sanctions on such a substantial part of the international petrol market is almost certainly bound to have effects. The administration understands this.
While responding to questions on the Iran sanctions, Trump recently told reporters at Andrews Air Base, “We have the toughest sanctions ever imposed. But on oil, we want to go a little bit slow because I don’t want to drive the oil prices in the world up.”
To this end, Trump decided to grant waivers to eight countries whose economies rely on Iran’s oil exports.
When asked about his decision to grant the temporary exemptions, Trump said, “I’m not looking to be a great hero and bring it down to zero immediately. I could get the Iran oil down to zero immediately, but it would cause a shock to the market. I don’t want to lift oil prices.”
While these waivers will certainly soften the blow, Iran will no doubt begin to feel even more pressure economically now that its most vital sources of national revenue have been targeted.
As for now, Iran’s enemy-number-one is time.