Are we perhaps finally getting some clarity on where the latest US blustering on Iran is actually headed? On the one year anniversary of the Trump administration pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal (JCPOA), the president issued new statements affirming the deal is "broken beyond repair" and placed new sanctions on Iran's industrial metals sector.
The newly announced sanctions seeks to prevent countries from importing Iranian iron, steel, aluminum, and copper exports, targeting a sector that makes up 10% of Iran's export economy. Yet simultaneously, White House special envoy for Iran Brian Hook stressed to reporters that the US is not seeking war with Iran, but it remains that "any Iranian attack against the United States or allies will be met with force."
Trump himself noted that he looks forward to "one day working on a new Iran pact," which suggests the White House's "maximum pressure" campaign is aimed at intimidating Iran into submission toward better nuclear deal terms.
The White House statement said, "The United States will aggressively enforce its sanctions, and those who continue to engage in sanctionable activity involving Iran will face severe consequences." Toward this end, other nations have been put "on notice that allowing Iranian steel and other metals into your ports will no longer be tolerated," according to the statement.
The statement justified its increasingly toughening sanctions on because "the regime continues to engage in destructive and destabilizing activities," including maintaining "its nuclear ambitions and continues to develop its ballistic missile capabilities and support terrorism".
But new sanctions, including ending the waiver program which allowed up to eight countries to purchase Iranian crude, as well as threats - including this week's supposed deployment of a carrier and bomber strike group (it was pre-scheduled but "moved up" after Bolton's claim of immediate threats facing US troops in the Middle East) - don't appear to be working.
Iran this week notified European officials it would likely stop complying with parts of the JCPOA commitments, warning that the other signatories they have 60 days to implement their obligations, or else research on enriching uranium would move forward.