Washington: The Trump administration expects economic sanctions that it is re-imposing on Iran this week to further cripple the Iranian economy and will aggressively enforce the measures, senior US administration officials said on Monday.
The so-called snapback sanctions, due to come into force early on Tuesday, would target Iranian purchases of US dollars, metals trading and other dealings, coal, industrial-related software and its auto sector.
Iran's rial currency has lost half its value since April under the threat of revived US sanctions. The plunge in the currency and soaring inflation have sparked sporadic demonstrations in Iran against profiteering and corruption, with many protesters chanting anti-government slogans.
President Donald Trump is aiming to cut off the Iranian leadership's access to resources, the officials said. The United States also plans to re-introduce potentially more damaging sanctions on Iranian oil in November.
But the US sanctions strategy has several weak spots, especially a reluctance by Europe and China to curtail business with Iran. The European Union voiced regret on Monday at the looming US sanctions.
Trump warned on Monday of "severe consequences" for people or entities that fail to wind down economic activities with 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," he said in a statement.
If Iran wants to avoid the reimposition of sanctions it should take up Trump's offer to negotiate, White House national security adviser John Bolton said on Monday. Asked on Fox News what Iran's leaders could do, Bolton said: "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."
"If Iran were really serious they'd come to the table. We'll find out whether they are or not." The sanctions now being brought back were among those lifted under the 2015 deal between world powers and Tehran on curbing Iran's nuclear program.
The United States and Iran have been increasingly at odds over Iran's growing political and military influence in the Middle East since Trump took office in January 2017. Trump announced this May he would withdraw the United States from the Iran nuclear deal.
The European Union expressed concern at the new US move. "We deeply regret the re-imposition of sanctions by the US," the bloc said in a joint statement with the foreign ministers of France, Germany and Britain.
One EU measure to mitigate the impact of US sanctions, known as the blocking statute, will come into force on Tuesday.