Squirming under sanctions, Iranian leaders are considering options that could include disrupting the world’s oil supply to resist growing U.S. pressure on other countries to isolate Iran.
Iran, the fifth-largest oil producer in the world, was not happy when the U.S. did not renew waivers earlier in May for eight countries to import Iranian oil despite sanctions, reported The Washington Post.
Iran, the U.S. and countries including the United Kingdom and France that signed the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal have been searching for a new normal after President Donald Trump pulled out of the deal in May 2018.
Iranian nuclear officials said Monday the country has quadrupled its nuclear-enrichment capacity but stayed under a limit set by the deal, The Post reported.
But now Iran has an ultimatum for European countries to move forward with a special trade channel called INSTEX despite U.S. opposition. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said earlier in May his country will disregard the nuclear deal in 60 days if Iran does not get sanctions relief, The Post reported.
“Iran is constantly threatening to break the agreement and that doesn’t facilitate the possibility of trade. … I do not think that Europe will give into an ultimatum,” French finance minister Bruno Le Maire said Tuesday according to Reuters.
Meanwhile, many Iranians protest their government’s handling of affairs as they feel the continued effects of the sanctions, reported The New York Times. But conflict or proxy conflict with the U.S. is not necessarily a bad thing for Iran’s leaders in the eyes of the people.
Showing strength would cement power in the hands of hard-liners and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, according to analysts cited by The Post.
Iranian leaders have denied responsibility for the incidents that have caused alarm in the U.S. in recent weeks.
The incidents include the alleged sabotage of four oil tankers in the Persian Gulf last week. U.S. and Arab officials suspect Iran is behind the damage to the Saudi, Norwegian and Emirati ships, according to The Post. In addition, a missile that some trace back to Iranian-backed Iraqi militias landed less than one mile from the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad on Sunday night.
The increased tensions mark a contrast from the subdued approach that Iran took for many months. Until recently, Iranian naval vessels stopped getting uncomfortably close to U.S. Navy ships in the Strait of Hormuz. Iran also cut down on arms shipments to Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, reported The Post.
Meanwhile, Trump has not shied away from addressing the situation with Iran. “If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran. Never threaten the United States again!” Trump wrote on Twitter on Sunday, May 19.
Trump’s rhetoric is a big shift from former President Barack Obama’s Iran policy. Obama’s Secretary of State John Kerry spearheaded the 2015 deal, which Trump called an “embarrassment” during a speech at the United Nations conference in New York City on Sept. 19, 2017.
But it appears Kerry did not step out of his role as a negotiator once Obama left office. Trump slammed Kerry in April for potentially violating the Logan Act by continuing to talk to top Iranian officials in hopes of reviving the nuclear deal.
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