Part 1: U.S. Reimposes Sanctions on Iran

On August 6, President Donald Trump signed an Executive Order reimposing sanctions on Iran. The move was consistent with his May 8 announcement of the U.S. withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal and the reimposition of nuclear-related sanctions. “These actions include reimposing sanctions on Iran’s automotive sector and on its trade in gold and precious metals, as well as sanctions related to the Iranian rial,” Trump said. He urged all nations “to make clear that the Iranian regime faces a choice: either change its threatening, destabilizing behavior and reintegrate with the global economy, or continue down a path of economic isolation.” The measures will take effect on August 7, while the rest of the sanctions will be reimposed on November 5. The remaining sanctions will be more biting since they target Iran’s lucrative oil exports and transactions by foreign financial institutions with the Central Bank of Iran. 

President Trump also emphasized his willingness to negotiate a new deal with Iran. “As we continue applying maximum economic pressure on the Iranian regime, I remain open to reaching a more comprehensive deal that addresses the full range of the regime’s malign activities, including its ballistic missile program and its support for terrorism,” he said. On July 30, Trump said he would be willing to meet Iranian leaders anytime with no preconditions. Trump’s latest statement is below, followed by other government resources on the sanctions and remarks by U.S. officials. 


Statement from the President on the Reimposition of United States Sanctions with Respect to Iran

Trump portraitToday, the United States is taking action to reimpose nuclear-related sanctions with respect to Iran that were lifted in connection with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action of July 14, 2015 (the “JCPOA”). These actions include reimposing sanctions on Iran’s automotive sector and on its trade in gold and precious metals, as well as sanctions related to the Iranian rial. These measures will take effect on August 7, 2018.

All remaining United States nuclear-related sanctions will resume effective November 5, 2018. These include sanctions targeting Iran’s energy sector, including petroleum-related transactions, as well as transactions by foreign financial institutions with the Central Bank of Iran.

The United States is fully committed to enforcing all of our sanctions, and we will work closely with nations conducting business with Iran to ensure complete compliance. Individuals or entities that fail to wind down activities with Iran risk severe consequences.

I am pleased that many international firms have already announced their intent to leave the Iranian market, and several countries have indicated that they will reduce or end imports of Iranian crude oil. We urge all nations to take such steps to make clear that the Iranian regime faces a choice: either change its threatening, destabilizing behavior and reintegrate with the global economy, or continue down a path of economic isolation.

My actions today – including my signing of an Executive Order entitled “Reimposing Certain Sanctions with Respect to Iran” – are consistent with National Security Presidential Memorandum-11 of May 8, 2018, announcing the withdrawal of the United States from the JCPOA.

The JCPOA, a horrible, one-sided deal, failed to achieve the fundamental objective of blocking all paths to an Iranian nuclear bomb, and it threw a lifeline of cash to a murderous dictatorship that has continued to spread bloodshed, violence, and chaos.

Since the deal was reached, Iran’s aggression has only increased. The regime has used the windfall of newly accessible funds it received under the JCPOA to build nuclear-capable missiles, fund terrorism, and fuel conflict across the Middle East and beyond.

To this day, Iran threatens the United States and our allies, undermines the international financial system, and supports terrorism and militant proxies around the world.

By exiting the JCPOA, the United States is able to protect its national security by applying maximum economic pressure on the Iranian regime. To date, my Administration has issued 17 rounds of Iran-related sanctions, designating 145 companies and individuals. Since my announcement on May 8 withdrawing the United States from the JCPOA, my Administration has sanctioned 38 Iran-related targets in six separate actions. Reimposition of nuclear-related sanctions through today’s actions further intensifies pressure on Tehran to change its conduct.

As we continue applying maximum economic pressure on the Iranian regime, I remain open to reaching a more comprehensive deal that addresses the full range of the regime’s malign activities, including its ballistic missile program and its support for terrorism. The United States welcomes the partnership of likeminded nations in these efforts.

The United States continues to stand with the long-suffering Iranian people, who are the rightful heirs to Iran’s rich heritage and the real victims of the regime’s policies. We look forward to the day when the people of Iran, and all people across the region, can prosper together in safety and peace.

—Aug. 6, 2018, in a statement



White House Fact Sheet


“Our policy is based on a clear-eyed assessment of the Iranian dictatorship, its sponsorship of terrorism, and its continuing aggression in the Middle East and all around the world.”  – President Donald J. Trump

REIMPOSING TOUGH SANCTIONS: President Donald J. Trump’s Administration is taking action to reimpose sanctions lifted under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

•  President Trump made clear when he ended United States participation in the JCPOA that his Administration would be reimposing tough sanctions on the Iranian regime.

·  In connection with the withdrawal from the JCPOA, the Administration laid out two wind-down periods of 90 days and 180 days for business activities in or involving Iran.

•  Consistent with President Trump’s decision, the Administration will be reimposing specified sanctions after August 6, the final day of the 90-day wind-down period.

•  On August 7, sanctions will be reimposed on:

·  The purchase or acquisition of United States bank notes by the Government of Iran.
·  Iran’s trade in gold and other precious metals.
·  Graphite, aluminum, steel, coal, and software used in industrial processes.
·  Transactions related to the Iranian rial.
·  Activities relating to Iran’s issuance of sovereign debt.
·  Iran’s automotive sector. 

•  The remaining sanctions will be reimposed on November 5, including sanctions on:

·  Iran’s port operators and energy, shipping, and shipbuilding sectors.
·  Iran’s petroleum-related transactions.
·  Transactions by foreign financial institutions with the Central Bank of Iran.

·  The Administration will also relist hundreds of individuals, entities, vessels, and aircraft that were previously included on sanctions lists.

ENSURING FULL ENFORCEMENT: President Trump will continue to stand up to the Iranian regime’s aggression, and the United States will fully enforce the reimposed sanctions.

•  The Iranian regime has exploited the global financial system to fund its malign activities.

·  The regime has used this funding to support terrorism, promote ruthless regimes, destabilize the region, and abuse the human rights of its own people. 

•  The Trump Administration intends to fully enforce the sanctions reimposed against Iran, and those who fail to wind down activities with Iran risk severe consequences.

•  Since the President announced his decision on May 8 to withdraw from the JCPOA, the Administration has sanctioned 38 Iran-related targets in six separate actions.

•  Since the President announced his decision on May 8 to withdraw from the JCPOA, the Administration has sanctioned 38 Iran-related targets in six separate actions.

PROTECTING OUR NATIONAL SECURITY: The JCPOA was defective at its core and failed to guarantee the safety of the American people.

•  President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Iran deal upheld his highest obligation: to protect the safety and security of the American people.

•  The Iranian regime only grew more aggressive under the cover of the JCPOA and was given access to more resources to pursue its malign activities.   

·  The regime continues to threaten the United States and our allies, exploit the international financial system, and support terrorism and foreign proxies.

•  The Administration is working with allies to bring pressure on the Iranian regime to achieve an agreement that denies all paths to a nuclear weapon and addresses other malign activities.



August 6, 2018

Dear Mr. Speaker:   (Dear Mr. President:)

Pursuant to the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (50 U.S.C. 1701 et seq.) (IEEPA), I hereby report that I have issued an Executive Order (the "order") with respect to Iran that takes additional steps with respect to the national emergency declared in Executive Order 12957 of March 15, 1995, and implements certain statutory requirements of the Iran Sanctions Act of 1996 (Public Law 104-172) (50 U.S.C. 1701 note), as amended (ISA), the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act of 2010 (Public Law 111-195) (22 U.S.C. 8501 et seq.), as amended (CISADA), the Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act of 2012 (Public Law 112 158) (TRA), and the Iran Freedom and Counter-Proliferation Act of 2012 (subtitle D of title XII of Public Law 112-239) (22 U.S.C. 8801 et seq.) (IFCA).

In Executive Order 12957 of March 15, 1995, the President found that the actions and policies of the Government of Iran threaten the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States.  To deal with that threat, the President declared a national emergency and imposed prohibitions on certain transactions with respect to the development of Iranian petroleum resources.  To further respond to that threat and to provide implementation authority for Iran-related legislation -- including ISA and certain statutory requirements of CISADA, TRA, and IFCA -- the President issued Executive Order 12959 of May 6, 1995, Executive Order 13059 of August 19, 1997, Executive Order 13553 of September 28, 2010, Executive Order 13574 of May 23, 2011, Executive Order 13590 of November 20, 2011, Executive Order 13606 of April 22, 2012, Executive Order 13608 of May 1, 2012, Executive Order 13622 of July 30, 2012, Executive Order 13628 of October 9, 2012, and Executive Order 13645 of June 3, 2013.

In order to give effect to the commitments of the United States with respect to sanctions described in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action of July 14, 2015 (JCPOA), the President issued Executive Order 13716 of January 16, 2016, which revoked Executive Orders 13574, 13590, 13622, and 13645, amended Executive Order 13628, and continued implementation authorities for certain provisions of IFCA that were outside the scope of the JCPOA.

On May 8, 2018, in recognition of Iran's escalating campaign of regional destabilization, the threat that Iran's malign behavior continues to pose to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States, and the JCPOA's failure to address the totality of the concerns of the United States about Iran's behavior, I announced my decision to cease the participation of the United States in the JCPOA and to reimpose all sanctions lifted or waived in connection with the JCPOA.  Iran remains the world's leading state sponsor of terrorism, and provides assistance to Lebanese Hizballah, Hamas, Kata'ib Hizballah, the Taliban, al-Qa'ida, and other terrorist networks.  Iran also continues to fuel sectarian tension in Iraq, and support vicious civil wars in Yemen and Syria.  It commits grievous human rights abuses, and arbitrarily detains foreigners, including United States citizens, on spurious charges without due process of law.  

It is the policy of the United States that Iran be denied all paths to develop or acquire a nuclear weapon; that Iran's network and campaign of regional aggression be neutralized and constrained; to disrupt, degrade, or deny the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps and its surrogates access to the resources that sustain their destabilizing activities; and to impede Iran's aggressive development of longer-range missiles, including intercontinental ballistic missiles, and other asymmetric and conventional weapons capabilities.  I have determined that these circumstances, in the context of the national emergency declared in Executive Order 12957, necessitate the exercise of my authority under IEEPA.

Sections 1-6 of the order that I have issued reimpose and extend the sanctions that were lifted pursuant to Executive Order 13716, including implementation authorities for IFCA.  In addition, these sections continue in effect certain implementation authorities for ISA, CISADA, and TRA previously provided for in Executive Order 13628.  The measures in these sections will take effect following a previously announced 90 day or 180-day wind down period, as appropriate.

Section 7 of the order continues in effect authorities contained in sections 2 and 3 of Executive Order 13628 and subsection 3(c) of Executive Order 13716 targeting the diversion of goods intended for the people of Iran, the transfer of goods or technologies to Iran that are likely to be used to commit human rights abuses, and persons who engage in censorship. 

Section 8 of the order continues in effect and extends prohibitions contained in section 4 of Executive Order 13628 relating to entities owned or controlled by a United States person and established or maintained outside the United States, which were required by section 218 of the TRA. 

Section 9 of the order revokes Executive Orders 13628 and 13716 and clarifies that the provisions of the order supersede those earlier orders.

I have delegated to the Secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with the Secretary of State, the authority to take such actions, including adopting rules and regulations, to employ all powers granted to me by IEEPA and the relevant provisions of ISA, and to employ all powers granted to the United States Government by the relevant provisions of ISA and CISADA, as may be necessary to carry out the purposes of the order.

I am enclosing a copy of the Executive Order I have issued.


Click here to read the Executive Order. 

Click here for additional Treasury guidance. 


Secretary of State Mike Pompeo


QUESTION:  On Iran – on Iran, do you know – Foreign Minister Zarif was really working the room there this last week at ASEAN, and he seemed to be – according to his tweets, he seemed to be suggesting – he was talking to a lot of people about ways to evade sanctions, which he – U.S. sanctions he described – he characterized them as extortion and the U.S. being addicted to sanctions.  I was wondering if you thought he made any progress and it’s going to be difficult to get everyone to go along with both the ones tomorrow and the ones coming up in November.

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Yeah, so the President and I too have been very clear.  We’re very hopeful that we can find a way to move forward, but it’s going to require enormous change on the part of the Iranian regime.  They’ve got to behave like a normal country.  That’s the ask.  It’s pretty simple.  And so we think most other countries – everyone with whom I spoke understands that they need to behave normally, and they understand that this is a country that threatens them.  Right, we’ve got assassinations taking place in Europe, we’ve got – I could go through the list of malign activity throughout the region.  It’s – these folks are bad actors and the President is determined to change their direction.  Of course, I think he said this morning, hey, we’re happy to talk if there’s an arrangement that is appropriate that can lead to a good outcome.  Perhaps that’ll be the path the Iranians choose to move down.  But there’s no evidence to date of their desire to change and behave in a more normal way.

QUESTION:  Will they be able to break sanctions though?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  The United States is going to enforce these sanctions. Just go look at the reporting on what’s taking place.  The Iranian people are not happy – not with the Americans, but with their own leadership.  They’re unhappy with the failure of their own leadership to deliver the economic promises that their leadership promised them.  This isn’t – this is just about Iranians’ dissatisfaction with their own government, and the President’s been pretty clear.  We want the Iranian people to have a strong voice in who their leadership will be.

—Aug. 5, 2018, to the press en route to Joint Base Andres


National Security Advisor John Bolton

Q: What will major economic sanctions do against the Iranian regime?

Bolton: Well when they come back into effect tonight, we’ve really already seen some of the implications. The pressure on the Iranian economy is significant, the value of the currency is going through the floor, we’ve seen public reporting of massive flights of capital out of Iran, the elites are getting nervous, we continue to see demonstrations and riots in cities and towns all around Iran showing the dissatisfaction the people feel because of the strained economy. More sanctions come back in in another 90 days. But this is an indication of how strongly we feel that the Iranian nuclear weapons program, its ballistic missile program, its support for terrorism, its belligerent activity in the Middle East have to stop.

Q: I know how you feel about this regime so let’s call it what it is. You’re trying to break the regimes back economically, are you not?

Bolton: Well our policy is not regime change but we want to put unprecedented pressure on the government of Iran to change its behavior. And so far they’ve shown no indication they’re prepared to do that. The president has made it clear repeatedly that he viewed the Iran nuclear deal as one of the worst in American diplomatic history, I thought he was right on target on that. We are not going to allow Iran to get nuclear weapons… 

Q: Well you can say, and you can argue that you don’t want regime change, but you know the protests that have been happening over the weekend have gotten rather intense. And they’re not protesting America; they’re protesting their own rulers and leaders today. [And with good reason]. Understood, make the case. What do you know about these protests today that we need to understand?

Bolton: Well look we know basically what we’re seeing in the press, that these are widespread, that they’re spontaneous, they’re not coordinating, they’re not due to the reimposition of American sanctions. They reflect long-standing opposition inside Iran to the regime to the economic deprivation to the repression to the religious intolerance. I think this regime is on very shaky ground. The real question is whether the revolutionary guards corps and the ayatollahs will use force against their own people. But what we’re focused on is the nuclear weapons program, the ballistic missiles, the support for terrorism, and the belligerent activity militarily.

Q: So the phrase was maximum economic pressure, from the president. Do you admit that you’re using the strength of the American economy right now as a weapon, globally? Maybe in Iran, maybe in North Korea? Would you agree with that framing?

Bolton: Well I think we’re using the economic system we have and its strength to put pressure on these rogue regimes. They’re the ones that have been defying their own commitments and obligations, the unanimous decisions of the UN Security Council that they not get deliverable nuclear weapons. It has not impressed the ayatollahs, I think we’re gonna make them see the light.

Q: Okay, what would satisfy this administration? What could the leaders of Iran do?

Bolton: Well they could take up the president’s offer to negotiate with them, to give up their ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programs fully and really verifiably, not under the onerous terms of the Iran nuclear deal, which really are not satisfactory. To stop their support for international terrorism, to give up their military activities in the regime. You know this is a complete package. The president has spoken to numerous European leaders about this. If Iran were really serious, they’d come to the table. We’ll find out whether they are or not. 

Q: That’s a big ask, I think you’d admit that, right? And this is a complete reversal of American policy.

Bolton: It is certainly a 180-degree reversal from the failed Obama administration, absolutely.

Q: The president last week said he would sit down and talk with Iranian leadership, is that real? Or how real is it?

Bolton: I think he was very serious about it. If the ayatollahs want to get out from under the squeeze they should come and sit down. The pressure will not relent while the negotiations go on, much as in the case of the maximum pressure campaign against North Korea --

Q: Well has Tehran suggested that they would talk to President Trump?

Bolton: No, they flatly turned him down and I think that’s an indication they’re not serious about stopping their malign behavior. I think this regime is dedicated to getting deliverable nuclear weapons, they have been for 25 years, and I don’t think the Iran nuclear deal slowed them down at all.

Q: Can you isolate these European countries and companies, that are right now forced to make a decision, do they do business with Iran or do they side with you?

Bolton: Well you know we’ve been in continuous discussion with our friends in Europe about this, and while some of the governments still want to adhere to the nuclear deal, their companies are running from it. The amount of business they’re doing in Iran is down substantially, that’s a real contributing factor to the pressure on Iran. Because the business people know, they want to do business with the United States. And if it’s a choice between us or Iran, that’s a pretty easy choice for them. That’s pressure their own governments in Europe are beginning to feel.

Q: Okay the way I understand it, you will put on more sanctions in another 90 days or so? I believe that’s the oil? Perhaps in early November if I’m right on the calendar? There was the threat they would block the Strait of Hormuz, I guess it’s always real… Real or imagined. Do you believe the Iranian leadership would act on that in that crucial choke point there, between Iran and…

Bolton: Well the Iranian leadership has made a lot mistakes in the past several years. Trying to close the Strait of Hormuz would be the worst mistake yet. [Do you believe it to be real?] I don’t think that they’re serious about it, I think they’re still bluffing. But they should not underestimate our determination that we’re going to put pressure on them until they give up their pursuit of nuclear weapons, and all the other activities that I mentioned. That we are very serious about.

—Aug. 6 2018, in an interview on Fox News


SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE:  I just want to point out that what’s happening today is part of a big coordinated campaign of pressuring Tehran that President Trump put in place from day one of his administration.  We’ve – looking at the region from Yemen to Syria to Gaza, the Iranian regime is using the resources they had gotten from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action to spread human misery across the region instead of investing it in their people at home.  We can have no further illusions about their intent.

And so facing this reality 90 days ago, the President took historic action to withdraw the United States from the JCPOA and put an end to the fiction that that deal would block Tehran from getting a nuclear weapon.  Now, at that time we were warned by experts from the EU, even from my alma mater of the University of Pennsylvania – very sad – that the threat of unilateral sanctions from the United States would not be an effective tool.  But three months out, we have a very different picture in front of us.  The riyal is tanking, unemployment in Iran is rising, and there are widespread protests over social issues and labor unrest.  

I thought from the Secretary of State’s speech at the Reagan Library one of the most telling facts that he presented was that you would get twice the salary as a fighter for Hizballah in Syria or Lebanon than you would to be a firefighter in Tehran, if you got paid at all.  And we see fires burn (inaudible) city unchecked. 

The next 90 days will see increased economic pressure, culminating in the reimposition of petroleum sector sanctions in November, and this will have an exponential effect on Iran’s already fragile economy.

The President has been very clear none of this needs to happen.  He will meet with the Iranian leadership at any time to discuss a real comprehensive deal that will contain their regional ambitions, will end their malign behavior, and deny them any path to a nuclear weapon.  The Iranian people should not suffer because of their regime’s hegemonic regional ambitions.

I’d just like to conclude by thanking my interagency colleagues for their strong work on this effort.  It’s really been a terrific example of the administration pulling together.  And I’ll turn it over to you, [Senior Administration Official Two].

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL TWO:  I think as we see the Iranian protests continue now in some number of days, we hope that the Iranian regime will think seriously about the consequences of their behavior is having on their own people.  We do stand with the Iranian people, who are longing for a country of economic opportunity, transparency, fairness, and greater liberty.  As Iran expends enormous resources on its foreign adventurism, its people are becoming increasingly frustrated, and we are seeing this frustration expressed in protests across the country.

We are deeply concerned about reports of Iranian regime’s violence against unarmed citizens.  The United States supports the Iranian people’s right to peacefully protest against corruption and oppression without fear of reprisal.  

And two other points.  The regime’s systematic mismanagement of its economy and its decision to prioritize a revolutionary agenda over the welfare of the Iranian people has put Iran into a long-term economic tailspin.  Widespread government corruption and extensive intervention in the economy by the Iran Revolutionary Guard Corps make doing business in Iran a losing proposition.  Foreign direct investors in Iran never know whether they are facilitating commerce or terrorism.  

I’d also point out that Iran obviously had a windfall from the Iran nuclear deal.  Its increased oil revenues were a consequence of the nuclear deal.  Those revenues could have gone to improve the lives of the Iranian people; instead, terrorists, dictators, proxy militias, and the regime’s own cronies benefitted the most.  

And now, I’m happy to turn it over to [Senior Administration Official Three].

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL THREE:  So today, I want to briefly describe the actions that we’re taking today.  The President has issued a new Iran executive order to reimpose sanctions relating to Iran, as you know.  On May 8th, the President issued a national security presidential memorandum which directed the secretaries of Treasury and State and others to take a number of actions.  And today’s announcement is just the next step in implementing the President’s decision.

Specifically, we are reimposing sanctions on Iran that had been lifted under the JCPOA.  The snapback of these sanctions, again, supports the President’s decision to impose significant financial pressure on the Iranian regime, to continue to counter Iran’s blatant and ongoing malign activities, and then ultimately to seek a new agreement that addresses the totality of the Iranian threat.

During the period of the JCPOA, the Iranian regime demonstrated time and time again that it had no intentions to cease its state support for terrorism, foreign proxies, and other malign activities.  Iran, as has already been stated, has continued to promote ruthless regimes, destabilize the region, and abuse the human rights of its own people.  As our sanctions have been exposing to fund their illicit activities and to evade sanctions, Iran has systematically exploited the global financial system, and willfully deceived countries, companies, and financial institutions around the globe.

This administration intends to fully enforce our sanctions as they come back into effect in order to impose economic pressure on the Iranian regime to stop its destabilizing activity, and ultimately chart a new path that will lead to prosperity for the Iranian people.  Specifically, the new Iran EO reimposes relevant provisions of five Iran sanctions executive orders that were revoked or amended in January 16, 2016 in two phases.  The first wind-down period ends at midnight tonight, at which relevant – at which point relevant sanctions will be reimposed.  

At 12:01 a.m. tomorrow, August 7, 2018, sanctions will come back into full effect on the purchase or acquisition of U.S. dollar bank notes by the Government of Iran; Iran’s trade in gold and precious metals; the sale or transfer to or from Iran of graphite and metals, such as aluminum and steel, coal, and software for integrating industrial processes; certain transactions related to the Iranian rial; certain transactions related to the issuance of Iranian sovereign debt; and Iran’s automotive sector.

Wind-down authorizations will no longer be valid after August 6th, with respect to the importation into the United States of Iranian origin carpets and food stuffs, and transactions related to the purchase of commercial passenger aircraft will be prohibited.  After the 180-day wind-down period ends on November 4, 2018, the U.S. Government will reimpose the remaining sanctions that have been – had been previously lifted under the JCPOA.

The final round of snapback sanctions, as articulated in the executive order, will include the reimposition of sanctions on Iran’s oil exports and energy sector, financial institutions conducting transactions with the Central Bank of Iran, as well as sanctions related to Iran’s port operators and shipping and ship-building sectors, and sanctions on the provision of insurance and financial messaging services.

Today’s executive order and the snapback of sanctions on Iran, again, is part of the President’s broader strategy to apply unprecedented financial pressure on the Iranian regime.  We are intent on cutting off the regime’s access to resources that they have systematically used to finance terror, fund weapons proliferation, and threaten peace and stability in the region.  Again, our actions will continue to severely limit the ability of Iran, which, as you know, is the largest state sponsor of terror, to gain funding to continue to finance its wide range of malign behavior.

Under this administration, OFAC has issued 17 rounds of sanctions designating 145 Iran-related persons.  This includes six rounds just since the President’s decision in May, including actions relating to the finance of the Qods Force and Hizballah, its ballistic missile program, the Iranian aviation sector, the government’s – the regime’s use of front and shell companies and other deceptive means to gain access to currency for the Qods Force, including in complicity with the Central Bank of Iran.  We are fully committed to rigorously enforcing our sanctions and ensuring that Iran has no path to a nuclear weapon.  This economic pressure campaign is central to our efforts to gain – to ensure that they change course. 

I will just also mention that in addition to the executive order we’re going to be publishing a number of FAQs that will provide answers to specific technical questions.  

QUESTION:  When the previous administration imposed sanctions against Iran prior to the JCPOA, they had broad international support.  In this case, the United States has withdrawn from the agreement but other – Europe and Russia and China continue to endorse it.  China is a large consumer of Iranian oil and does a lot of trade with them.  How do you propose to elicit China’s cooperation?  And if you fail to do so, aren’t your sanctions going to be weaker than the ones the Obama administration imposed?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL THREE:  So of course, as I’m sure [Senior Administration Official Two] will tell you, we are likewise working to build a global coalition to counter Iran’s malign activity.  What I can tell you very specifically is that we have made it very clear that we’re going to aggressively enforce this executive order and the other authorities that we have pursuant to statute.  We will work with countries around the world to do so.  But make no mistake about it, we are very intent on using these authorities.  We will use them aggressively.  And as [Senior Administration Official Three] already mentioned, we are already seeing a very substantial impact.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE:  I would just follow up on that and say if the sanctions were not going to be effective, I don’t think you would have seen the trajectory of Iran’s economy over the last 90 days.  I mean, it would have been the opposite if China were going to rescue them and somehow make this into a big success.  

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL THREE:  And of course, in the last 90 days we have seen company after company after company announce that they are getting out, so there’s no question that this pressure is already working.  

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL TWO:  Yeah, this is [Senior Administration Official Two].  We – the point of our sanctions pressure, this economic pressure campaign, is to deny the regime the financial resources that it needs to finance terrorism and its nuclear missile programs and other dangerous activity around the Middle East.  And we’re very pleased that nearly 100 international firms have announced their intent to leave the Iranian market, particularly in the energy and the finance sectors.  

We have had – State and Treasury officials have been traveling around the world to various regions to coordinate with countries.  That includes China.  And so far, we have visited more than 20 countries, and that work will continue for the balance of the year.  

QUESTION:  I want to ask specifically about this announcement from the EU that they will protect European firms from the reimposition of U.S. sanctions on Iran, specifically this blocking statute that will take effect when sanctions are reimposed at midnight.  Do you expect that this could weaken U.S. sanctions?  Have you responded to this in any way?  

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL THREE:  Look, so I think with respect to the EU blocking the statute, really what you need to look at is what companies and – the messages that companies and financial institutions are sending, which is that (a) they have I think a deep appreciation for what’s going on in Iran for the fact that it’s very difficult and complicated to know who you’re doing business with in Iran.  Are you doing business with the IRGC, the Qods Force?  As we’ve – as has been exposed in our actions in the last 90 days, we’ve taken a couple of actions which expose the Central Bank of Iran’s complicity in helping to fund terror.  Companies and banks, including central banks, understand that very well.  They are taking note and as [Senior Administration Official Two] mentioned, they are getting out.  So we’re not – we are – this is not something that we’re particularly concerned by.  

QUESTION:  What kind of economic impact in dollar terms do you believe these initial sanctions will have on the Iranian economy?  And number two, is there a danger perhaps that the Iranians might blame the worsening conditions on foreigners rather than on the regime?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE:  In terms of your second question, I think of course they will blame foreigners.  They’ve been doing this for almost 40 years now; it’s their modus operandi.  But I think you could see the Iranian people start to see through that, that they know that this is the regime’s policies.  They also know about the President’s offer to meet with their leadership, and they’d like to take him up on that offer to see what the United States has to offer.  So I think doing – saying we can’t do something because a rogue regime will blame foreigners, I don’t think is a very effective policy for us.  

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL THREE:  Yeah and I would add – I mean, as also – as [Senior Administration Official Two] also mentioned, look, the Iranian people have been protesting for some time.  They were protesting well before the President’s decision and they were very specifically protesting about the corruption in their government, the misuse of funds which have not gone to the Iranian people.  It’s gone to fund regional proxies, it’s gone of course to fund terrorism and terrorist groups.  That’s what they’ve been protesting about for quite some time, and the extraordinary thing about these protests is that these people, the Iranian people, have – understand that when they protest in Iran, unfortunately they do so at the risk to their own lives.  They’re thrown in prison and all kinds of terrible things happen to them when they are thrown in prison, as our sanctions actions have likewise exposed in recent months.  But they are so fed up with their government, that they have made the decision that they have to protest against the Iranian regime’s ongoing economic and other policies.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE:  And I do think it’s particularly meaningful that they’re protesting against the expenditures in Syria, the expenditures in Gaza very specifically.  And so that’s what they’re blamin

QUESTION:  Are you or are you not calling for the Iranian people to do something to bring about regime change in Iran?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE:  Well, I’ll defer to [Senior Administration Official Two], but I mean our stated policy has not been regime change, it has been to modify the Iranian regime’s behavior in the ways that I outlined in my opening remarks.  

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO:  We have been – what we’re noticing is that so many of the things that the protesters are demanding are very similar to the things that the United States and other nations in the world are demanding.  And we have been consistent saying that if Iran will start behaving like a normal country, there are a number of benefits that will follow from that.  But for as long as Iran continues to export revolution around the Middle East and to destabilize the region and to rob its people to fund these foreign – to fund all the Shia militias and fund Assad and to fund other dictators in the region.  For as long as that’s going on, I think you’re going to see the Iranian people continually frustrated, and we support their claims.  We think that they have valid complaints against the regime, that many of them are our complaints.  And so we would like to see a change in the regime’s behavior, and I think the Iranian people are looking for the same thing.

QUESTION:  You’ve said that you’re not granting any broad waivers to the oil sanctions that snap back in November.  Have you approved any request allowing limited trades or specific deals to continue after that point, and have you made a decision on Japan’s request to continue importing Iranian oil?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL TWO:  Well, we don’t – we don’t disclose private deliberations with other governments over these things.  As we’ve said, we – our goal is to get the import of Iranian oil to zero.  We are not looking to grant exemptions or waivers, but we do and are glad to discuss requests and look at requests on a case-by-case basis.  But beyond that, we don’t comment on it.

QUESTION:  I’m trying to understand – to better understand the disconnect between the President’s wanting to meet with Rouhani any time, any place, and these sanctions.  How does that – do you think that the pressure could lead to a meeting or should lead to a meeting?  What would – what would be the purpose of a meeting given all your objections to this regime and your – the comments today certainly seem to be encouraging the people of Iran to rise up against their leaders.  Isn’t that really what you’re doing here?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE:  I mean, this is completely consistent with what the President has done with other meetings with what you might refer to as less friendly regimes from North Korea to Russia, which is not to give a lot of sanction – any sanctions relief in advance of a meeting to make very clear that the United States will keep the maximum pressure on these regimes until our goals are achieved.  And in standing with the Iranian people, I think we’re just – we’re just standing up for basic human rights, human dignity, and for the economic opportunity they deserve.

QUESTION:  [Senior Administration Official One], you said that the President will meet with the Iranian leadership at any time to discuss a comprehensive deal.  Just trying to understand – trying to confirm that there are no preconditions at all for that meeting given what Secretary of State Pompeo said that – or suggested that the Iranian regime would have to make some concessions or changes before that.  And either to you or to [Senior Administration Official Two] perhaps, do you believe or are you expecting the Iranian economy to collapse under the weights of these sanctions and the ones that will be – that will come back in a few months?  Thanks.

SENOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE:  Well, I actually didn’t say it.  The President said that he’d meet.  I just repeated what he said.  And I think I would defer to [Senior Administration Official Two] on the Secretary of State’s comments, but what he was saying there is he is not going to give up anything in advance of the meeting, that there are no preconditions.  And so I think that’s really – really the point.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL THREE:  Look, I mean, I’m not going to make any predictions about what’s going to happen to the Iranian economy other than to say that we are very intent on using these finance – these financial sanctions to great economic leverage.  And – look, again, the Iranian economy was already on a downward spiral before the President made his decision, and that’s as a result of the policies that the Iranians have espoused for quite some time.  But there’s no question that these financial sanctions are going to continue to bring significant financial pressure against the world’s largest state sponsor of terror.

QUESTION:  Are you saying that U.S. Government will have no responsibility in the misery they will bring these sanctions on ordinary Iranians?  Because you do talk about human rights and human dignity, and among these sanctions are the fact that Iran will not be getting, for instance, commercial airlines – new planes for its commercial airline.  So – so far we have had thousands of the Iranians dying in airline accidents throughout the years, and this sanction will make it impossible for them to buy new ones.  Is there not a responsibility here for U.S. Government to look out for the people that it says it wants to support to lessen their misery, while in reality it is actually increasing it?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE:  Absolutely not.  I think the blame for the situation is perfectly clear.  It lies with the Iranian regime that has systematically destroyed that beautiful country over the last four decades.  

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL THREE:  Yeah I would just echo what [Senior State Administration Two] just said.  Look, what we know is that Iran systematically uses its aviation sector, including Mahan Air and a number of other airlines that we have designated to continue to further its malign activity.  I mean, you see these airlines like Mahan traveling back and forth repeatedly to places like Syria to support the Assad regime and the brutal activities that it’s undertaken.  So really the pressure is on the regime to stop engaging in this systematic malign behavior that’s destabilizing the region, that’s victimizing its own people and that’s posing a threat to some of our closest allies and partners. 

—Aug. 6, 2018, in a teleconference briefing


Some of the information in this article was originally published on August 6, 2018.