Trump’s first round of nuclear sanctions on Iran sends a message: This is not a test

Under the 2015 agreement, the international community lifted wide-ranging sanctions on Iran in exchange for the Middle Eastern country accepting limits on its nuclear program. The Trump administration wants Iran to accept a dozen additional concessions.

“One of the things I’ve heard an awful lot of over the course of the last couple of months is whether or not this is still all a feint, and all intended to rejuvenate the diplomatic process that had otherwise been stalled,” said Richard Nephew, the lead sanctions expert to the U.S. team that negotiated the nuclear deal.

“I think that come Monday, a lot of that speculation, a lot of that wishful thinking will have been put to rest when those sanctions are back in place,” Nephew, now a senior research scholar at Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy, said during a conference call with reporters.

The initial volley of sanctions on Monday aims to block the Iranian government from accessing U.S. dollars, making significant rial transactions, maintaining overseas bank accounts or issuing sovereign debt. Iran also faces renewed barriers to transacting in gold, precious metals and other commodities like graphite and types of aluminum and steel.

Those measures weren’t designed to level a hammer blow at Iran’s economy, but to close loopholes that would help Tehran evade sanctions on Iran’s lifeblood energy industry, according to Nephew.

For that reason, their impact on the Iranian economy will be limited, Nephew said. But the end of the 90-day grace period does contain some measures that will have a direct impact on Iran’s economy, namely sanctions on Iran’s automotive and civil aviation sectors.

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