Iran’s president has warned the Islamic Republic faces a “war situation”, as he vowed the country will sell its oil and break reimposed US sanctions, Independent reported on Monday.
The sanctions end all economic benefits Washington granted Tehran for its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers and targets its vital energy and banking sectors.
Although Iran continues to abide by the accord, which saw it limit its enrichment of uranium, officials have lately made a point of threatening that it could resume enrichment at any time at a faster rate than before.
“American wanted to cut to zero Iran’s oil sales ... but we will continue to sell our oil ... to break sanctions,” Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, told economists at a meeting broadcast live on state TV on Monday.
On Friday, the US said it would temporarily allow eight importers to keep buying Iranian oil after the reimposition of sanctions.
China, India, South Korea, Japan and Turkey – all top importers of Iranian oil – are among the countries set to be given temporary exemptions from the sanctions to ensure crude oil prices are not destabilised. However, oil prices still fell on Monday.
The restoration of sanctions forms a part of a wider effort by Donald Trump to force Iran to curb its nuclear and missile programmes, as well as its support for proxy forces in Syria, Yemen, Lebanon and other parts of the Middle East.
In a bizarre message on Twitter designed to emphasise his “maximum pressure” policy towards Iran, the US president posted a photo of himself modelled on a Game of Thrones poster with the headline: “Sanctions are coming."
Iran responded with air defence drills, with state TV airing footage of air defence systems and anti-aircraft batteries in two-day military manoeuvres underway across a vast stretch of the country’s north.
The deal saw most international financial and economic sanctions on Iran lifted in return for Tehran curbing its disputed nuclear activity under UN observation.
The reimposed penalties “are the toughest sanctions ever put in place on the Islamic Republic of Iran”, the US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, said on Sunday.
However, Iran’s clerical rulers have dismissed concerns about the impact of sanctions on the country’s economy.
“This is an economic war against Iran but ... America should learn that it can not use the language of force against Iran ... We are prepared to resist any pressure,” Mr Rouhani said.
Iran is already in the grip of an economic crisis. Its international currency, the rial, currently trades at 145,000 to one US dollar, down from 40,500 to $1 a year ago.
The economic chaos sparked mass anti-government protests at the end of last year, which resulted in nearly 5,000 reported arrests and at least 25 people being killed. Sporadic demonstrations still continue.