TEHRAN, Iran - Since August 2, protests in Iran, that have stemmed from anger due to rising prices, spun out of control this week, as the first tranche of U.S. economic sanctions on Iran were implemented.
While the country’s regime has managed to quell previous such protests through violent methods, this week, infuriated Iranians staged demonstrations that began with violence and bloodshed.
Burning tires and setting fire to police vehicles, angry protests continued chanting “Death to the Dictator” against President Hassan Rouhani’s suppressive regime as they marched along the streets.
The U.S. President Donald Trump’s withdrawal of his country from the 2015 Iran Nuclear Deal in May this year sent Iran’s economy in free fall - and threatened to unleash a volcano of economic troubles.
And while protesters have so far fumed over the country’s failure to deal with the plummeting value of Iran’s official currency, Rial - now, anger is spiralling out of the control, since the feared sanctions made a return - impacting Iranians immediately.
Experts believe that this is the exact effect that the U.S. President had been hoping for.
According to Mohammad Marandi, a professor at the University of Tehran, "Basically the sanctions are targeting ordinary Iranians. The U.S. under Trump is trying to create mass poverty, trying to destroy people's lives, prevent the country from even being able to import medicine and food. They are trying to halt all exports.”
Marandi said, “It's a war. The U.S. is engaging in war, but it's directed at ordinary Iranians. The hope by the Americans is to make life so miserable for Iranians that they will force the Government to capitulate to the U.S. That is what the Americans are seeking."
Even as Iran has received some support from the other signatories of the nuclear deal, including Europe and China - that have defended business ties with Iran.
Signalling growing anger from U.S. partners over Trump’s threat to penalize businesses from third countries that continue to operate there - the EU and China have pointed at international laws that would make such moves by Washington a clear violation.
Since reimposing the sanctions this week, Trump has repeatedly warned all U.S. trading partners that any companies trading with the Islamic Republic would be barred from the United States.
Trump, who signed an executive order reimposing sanctions on Iran on Monday, warned, “The Iranian regime faces a choice. Either change its threatening, destabilizing behaviour and reintegrate with the global economy or continue down a path of economic isolation.”
Reiterating its commitment meanwhile, the European Union unveiled a new legislation called the ‘blocking statute’ which would protect European firms doing business with Iran despite the new U.S. sanctions.
Further, the German government said that U.S. sanctions against Iran that have an extra-territorial effect violate international law.
Germany said that it expects Washington to consider European interests when coming up with such sanctions.
Meanwhile, The Chinese foreign ministry issued a statement saying, “China has consistently opposed unilateral sanctions and long-armed jurisdiction. China’s commercial cooperation with Iran is open and transparent, reasonable, fair and lawful, not violating any United Nations Security Council resolutions. China’s lawful rights should be protected.”
However, Trump immediately took to Twitter and warned U.S. trading partners, "The Iran sanctions have officially been cast. These are the most biting sanctions ever imposed, and in November they ratchet up to yet another level. Anyone doing business with Iran will NOT be doing business with the United States. I am asking for WORLD PEACE, nothing less!”
He repeated the warning again in an early morning tweet on Wednesday.
Trump wrote, “Anyone doing business with Iran will NOT be doing business with the United States. I am asking for WORLD PEACE, nothing less!"
Reports pointed out on Wednesday that despite reassurances from European leaders, a number of major European companies, including French oil company Total and Danish tanker operator Maersk, had halted business with Tehran.
Several companies reportedly failed to secure a waiver from the U.S. sanctions.
Meanwhile, in a bid to alleviate tensions and respond to Trump’s many threats, Iran’s highest authority, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said that the country had nothing to be concerned about.
In a report on his official website, Khamenei said, “With regard to our situation do not be worried at all. Nobody can do anything. There is no doubt about this.”
The first phase of U.S. sanctions imposed on Tuesday target the purchase or acquisition of U.S. banknotes by Iran's government, Iran's trade in gold and other precious metals, Graphite, aluminium, steel, coal and software used in industrial processes, Transactions related to the Iranian rial currency, Activities relating to Iran's issuance of sovereign debt and Iran's automotive sector.
Later, in November, when the second 180-day deadline ends, the U.S. administration will impose the second phase of sanctions, targeting Iran's oil sector and central bank.
According to analysts, such a ban could halt about half of Iran's exports of some two million barrels a day.