The latest sanctions targeting Islamic Republic's mineral sector comes as tensions are already high in the region after Washington's sent its aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf.

US President Donald Trump has taken decisions, which have undermined the 2015 nuclear deal signed between Iran and the world powers.
US President Donald Trump has taken decisions, which have undermined the 2015 nuclear deal signed between Iran and the world powers. (AP)

US President Donald Trump on Wednesday tightened the screws further on Iran with sanctions on its mining industry. 

The move comes after a frustrated Tehran said it would suspend some promises it made under a 2015 nuclear deal, which the Trump administration has rejected. 

Latest sanctions targeting Iran's iron, steel, aluminum and copper sectors, have been announced a year after Trump withdrew from the nuclear deal. 

Since then, the United States has imposed crippling financial sanctions on Iran and said that it wants Islamic Republic's key oil exports to dry out completely. 

Tensions have been high in recent days after Washington deployed an aircraft carrier strike group and nuclear-capable bombers to the region and accused Iran of "imminent" attacks.

In an announcement previewed for days, Iran said it would immediately stop implementing some restrictions under the 2015 deal a move aimed largely at pressing Washington's European allies to step up to preserve the agreement.

Despite its economic difficulties because of the sanctions, Tehran has been meeting its commitments under the nuclear deal, a fact verified by International Atomic Energy Agency on multiple occasions. 

Tehran said it would abandon even more restrictions if the remaining parties to the agreement Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia failed to start delivering on their commitments to sanctions relief within 60 days.

President Hassan Rouhani said the ultimatum was intended to rescue the nuclear deal from Trump, whose sanctions have caused severe pain in Iran, which had anticipated an economic boon from the agreement negotiated under then president Barack Obama.

Rouhani denounced European countries for seeing the US as the world's "sheriff" and said their view kept them from making "firm decisions for their own national interests."

Cutting Iranian exports

Trump quickly fired back as he moved to inflict greater economic pain on Iran, imposing sanctions that would punish anyone who buys or trades the country's iron, steel, aluminum and copper.

The White House had already acted forcefully to prevent all countries from buying Iran's oil and said that the steel and mining sector was the country's second largest source of foreign revenue, accounting for 10 percent of exports.

Experts say the sanctions on Iran's metal sector is aimed at stoking unrest as tens of thousands of workers in country's automobile sector would be affected. 

But in a shift in tone, Trump who talked tough on North Korea before two landmark summits with leader Kim Jong Un said he was willing to negotiate face-to-face.

"I look forward to someday meeting with the leaders of Iran in order to work out an agreement and, very importantly, taking steps to give Iran the future it deserves," he said.

Heavy water

Iran's Supreme National Security Council said it no longer considered itself bound by the agreed restrictions on stocks of enriched uranium and heavy water.

It said that after 60 days, it would also stop abiding by limits on the level to which Iran can enrich uranium and modifications to its Arak heavy water reactor that were designed to prevent the production of plutonium.

Uranium enriched to much higher levels than Iran's current stocks can be used as the fissile core of a nuclear weapon, while heavy water is a source of plutonium, which can be used as an alternative way to produce a warhead.

But on a practical level, Robert Kelley, a former UN nuclear inspector now with the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, said the commitments Iran was dropping had no bearing on its ability to develop an atomic bomb.

He said that Iran was simply seeking to "save face" after "striking a deal which was not respected by the other side."

Concern in Europe

The three European parties to the deal tried to save the accord with a trade mechanism meant to bypass reimposed US sanctions, but their attempt was dismissed by Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as a "bitter joke."

The European powers voiced alarm at Iran's statement and expressed hope that the nuclear deal could be preserved.

"It is important to avoid any action that would prevent the enactment of the obligations by parties currently upholding the agreement or that might fuel an escalation," a French foreign ministry spokesperson said.

Germany urged Iran to uphold the nuclear deal. "We as Europeans, as Germans, will play our part and we expect full implementation from Iran as well," Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert said.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said the nuclear accord was "a major achievement" in boosting international security and said he "strongly hopes" that it can be preserved, according to UN spokesman Farhan Haq.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies