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Deadline midnight: Iran on the brink of international isolation

JEDDAH: When the clocks strike midnight on the US east coast on Sunday, Iran will become the world’s economic pariah state.

US President Donald Trump will reintroduce tough sanctions on Iran’s vital oil sales and banking sectors to try to force Tehran into negotiations to scrap its nuclear and ballistic missile programs and end its regional meddling.

Most international sanctions were lifted in 2016 in a deal Iran signed with world powers the year before to curb its uranium enrichment program, widely seen as a disguised effort to develop a nuclear bomb.

But Trump denounced the deal as flawed in Iran’s favor, and withdrew in May. His decision was welcomed throughout the Middle East.

Iran’s “aggressive policies” were “largely responsible” for the reimposition of US sanctions, the UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Anwar Gargash, said on Saturday.

In Iran, the sanctions were greeted with boastful defiance. “The world opposes every decision made by Trump,” Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said. “America’s goal has been to re-establish the domination it had before 1979 but it has failed.”

Gen. Qassem Soleimani, commander of the Quds Force, which runs the foreign operations of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, responded to a Game of Thrones-inspired tweet by Trump on Friday that warned: “Sanctions are Coming.”

“I will stand against you,” Soleimani said on Instagram.

Iran has been trying for six months with the EU to create a financial mechanism to avoid the sanctions. Diplomats said the new EU mechanism to pay for Iranian exports should be legally in place by Nov. 4, but not operational until next year. In addition, no country has volunteered to host the entity, which is delaying the process.

A senior French diplomat said on Saturday there was no way any trade with the mechanism could be conducted before the end of 2018, and no other countries, including China, would be part of it.

The US has given eight countries — including India, Japan and possibly China —waivers to continue importing Iranian oil to avoid upsetting the global market.

Turkey said on Saturday it had received initial indications from Washington that it would be granted a waiver, but is awaiting clarification on Monday.

The sanctions are “aimed at depriving the Iranian regime of the revenues it uses to spread death and destruction around the world,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said.

“Our ultimate aim is to compel Iran to permanently abandon its well-documented outlaw activities and behave as a normal country.”
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