Between 2011 and 2012, the US and European Union upped their pressure against Iran by imposing new sanctions against its oil exports. At the time, Tehran responded in its habitual manner: Threats of naval maneuvers, ballistic missile tests and warnings that it will shut the Hormuz Strait. Then Iranian Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi had declared that if the sanctions are imposed “then, not a single drop of oil will pass through Hormuz.” However, the sanctions went into effect, and millions of barrels of oil were traded and not a single response was recorded.
In August 2017, US President Donald Trump signed into law the "Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act”. It included measures against Iran’s ballistic missiles program and Revolutionary Guards and its militias. In wake of the development, senior Guards commanders warned that any new sanctions would be countered with a severe blow to US interests in the region.
The same scenario was repeated in May when Trump announced his withdrawal from the nuclear deal. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said at the time that Washington was seeking to completely halt Tehran’s oil exports. Addressing the Americans, he warned that they will face consequences of their actions. Iran’s deputy Shura council chief Ali Mathari also warned that his country will shut the Hormuz Strait in retaliation. Its interior minister went even further, by saying: “If we close our eyes for 24 hours, then a million refugees will head to Europe through our western borders” via Turkey. In addition, he said that some 5,000 tons of drugs could be smuggled to the West. A slew of Iranian threats and warnings ensued.
Despite this rhetoric, Iran not once, stayed true to its threats. It did not dare shut Hormuz. The end result was the same: The sanctions were imposed and Tehran was left powerless.
Worst of all is that the current American administration is determined to clip Iran’s wings. It boasts a president who is not at all tolerant of overlooking Iran’s malicious behavior. He wants it to cease its support for terrorism and stop its nuclear and ballistic missiles program.
Donald Trump is not Barack Obama or Bill Clinton. He is unlike any other American president that Iran has faced before. Moreover, regional countries have a clear strategy to confront the looming danger from the east. Furthermore, the Iranian people will have a difficult time tolerating more damaging austerity measures. The new sanctions will likely create an internal shock in Iran and within the regime, which seems paralyzed, and only animated by its cartoonish statements.
Similar to previous sanctions, Iran is unlikely to take escalatory measures to confront the new harsh penalties, because its regime does not have the sufficient means to translate its heated and repeated threats into words.
The regime will, as usual, resort to its sectarian militias in Lebanon, Iraq, Syria and Yemen. We will see some of its sleeper cells in the region wake up, but it will not be bold enough to make a direct provocation, because the strength of the regime lies in its indirect confrontation. At any rate, the new sanctions will compound Iran’s isolation and reveal day after day that the regime is incapable of responding to them.