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Iran seen to hang on to nuclear deal amid US sanctions, threats

23 May 2018, 6:00:00

On May 15, the US Treasury Department announced it was imposing sanctions against Iran's central bank governor and another senior bank official, accusing them of involvement in the transfer of millions of dollars on behalf of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps to Hezbollah, and designating them "terrorists".

The sanctions did not directly target Iran's central bank. But because of US President Donald Trump's decision to abandon the nuclear deal on May 8, certain transactions with the central bank, such as the purchase of US dollars by the Iranian government, would also be targeted by the United States.

The following day, French oil giant Total said that unless it obtains a US Treasury sanctions waiver, it will pull out of a $2bn natural gas project in Iran by November. The world's largest oil shipping container firm, Maersk of Denmark, said it would also end its operation in Iran.

Amid these developments, there were reports the US was putting pressure on Europe to cut the Iranian banking system off from the Swift network, thereby depriving Iran of access to the institution that facilitates export and import payments, among other international transactions.

Then on Monday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said unless Iran complies with American demands, it will face "the strongest sanctions in history" and "unprecedented financial pressure".

Despite the rhetoric, threats of "regime change" and the re-imposition of US sanctions, Iran experts predict Tehran will spend its diplomatic capital to try to preserve the 2015 nuclear deal. But it needs significant help from Europe to prevent the deal from collapsing.

Several companies said they would shut operations in Iran without US sanctions waivers [Al Jazeera]


Diako Hosseini, senior analyst at Tehran's Center for Strategic Studies, a think-tank close to the Iranian government, told if Iran secures sufficient guarantees from Europe, it "could decide to stay in the deal for geopolitical purposes".

"The Europeans showed that they sincerely want to stand with the deal," Hosseini said, though he conceded Tehran is aware of the European Union's "legal and political limitations" to defend it.

In that regard, Iran "will have no choice but to recognise" the diplomatic hurdles and lower its expectations to a "realistic level" in ongoing talks with the Europeans, said Hosseini.

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