WASHINGTON: US President Don­ald Trump on Monday told Iran to cha­n­­ge its “destabilising” behaviour or risk further economic isolation, ho­­urs before the reimposition of sweeping sanctions against Tehran, though he left the door open to a new nuclear deal.

After Trump pulled Washington out of the historic 2015 multilateral accord in May, to the consternation of his European partners, a new pact seemed unlikely in the short term, given his conditions — and Tehran’s anger.

Against a backdrop of political turmoil and protests in Iran, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif himself accused Trump of “bullying” and of being isolated in his hostility to the Islamic Republic. A first phase of US sanctions against Iran goes into effect overnight, targeting Iran’s access to US banknotes and key industries including cars and carpets.

“The Iranian regime faces a choice,” Trump said in a statement. “Either change its threatening, destabilising behaviour and reintegrate with the global economy, or continue down a path of economic isolation.”

“I remain open to reaching a more comprehensive deal that addresses the full range of the regime’s malign activities, including its ballistic missile programme and its support for terrorism,” the Republican leader added.

Renewed US hostility has already sparked a run on Iran’s currency, which has lost around half its value since Trump’s announcement.

It has added to tensions inside Iran, which has seen days of protests and strikes in multiple towns and cities over water shortages, high prices and wider anger at the political system.

Zarif lashed out at Trump, but ack­nowledged there were difficult times ahead. “Of course, American bullying and political pressures may cause some disruption, but the fact is that in the current world, America is isolated,” Zarif told reporters, according to the semi-official ISNA news agency.

The second phase of US sanctions, which takes effect on Nov 5 and will block Iran’s oil sales, is due to cause more damage.

EU diplomatic chief Federica Mog­herini said the bloc, as well as Britain, France and Germany, deeply regretted the move by Washington. “We are determined to protect European economic operators engaged in legitimate business with Iran,” she said in a statement.

Our correspondent adds: In a statement issued by his office, President Donald Trump further said the US remained “fully committed to enforcing all of our sanctions” and 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,” he warned.

“Our goal is to get the import of Iranian oil to zero. We are not looking to grant exemptions or waivers,” a senior Trump Administration official said at a news briefing in Washington. “But we do and are glad to discuss requests and look at requests on a case-by-case basis,” he explained.

The White House said the sanctions also cover Iran’s trade in gold and precious metals. The remaining nuclear-related sanctions will resume on Nov 5 which will include petroleum-related transactions, as well as transactions by foreign financial institutions with the Central Bank of Iran.

China, the largest importer of the Iranian oil, has already indicated that it would ignore the re-imposed US sanctions.

Published in Dawn, August 7th, 2018