Trump Vows 'Tougher Sanctions Than Ever Before' on Anniversary of Nixing Iran Nuclear Deal

Iran continuing nuclear buildup, sponsoring global terror operations

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani / Getty Images
May 8, 2019

On the one-year anniversary of President Donald Trump abandoning the landmark nuclear agreement with Iran, the White House vowed to impose "tougher sanctions on Iran than ever before" for its continued nuclear buildup and sponsorship of global terror operations, according to the White House.

Referring to the deal negotiated by former President Barack Obama and abandoned by Trump as "the worse deal ever negotiated," the White House promised to continue imposing crippling sanctions on the regime in a bid to collapse it. Already, the United States has denied Iran some $10 billion in cash windfalls from its crude oil industry.

Iran continues to pursue nuclear weapons, despite its claims otherwise, according to the White House, which announced a new salvo of sanctions on Wednesday on Iran's iron, steel, aluminum, and copper sectors.

Relations between the United States and Tehran have reached new lows as the Trump administration seeks to squeeze its already teetering economy. After issuing a recent round of sanctions designating Iran's Revolutionary Guards Corps, or IRGC, the regime's paramilitary force, Tehran has amped up its anti-American rhetoric and defied international bans on its most sensitive nuclear work, particularly regulations barring it from stockpiling enrich uranium, the key component in a weapon.

Meanwhile, Trump administration allies in Congress introduced a resolution on Wednesday exposing critical flaws in the deal and lending congressional support to Trump's decision to abandon it.

"The administration is imposing tougher sanctions on Iran than ever before because the regime continues to engage in destructive and destabilizing activities," the White House said. "The regime has maintained its nuclear ambitions and continues to develop its ballistic missile capabilities and support terrorism."

"The United States will aggressively enforce its sanctions, and those who continue to engage in sanctionable activity involving Iran will face severe consequences," the White House said.

Following Wednesday's sanctions, "the United States has now imposed sanctions on Iran's top three exports—oil, petrochemicals, and metals," according to the White House.

The White House defended Trump's decision to withdraw from the nuclear deal, describing it as failing to prevent Iran from continuing its work on a nuclear weapon.

"President Trump withdrew from the Iran deal because it failed to protect American national security interests and enabled Tehran's malign behavior," the White House said in announcing the new sanctions.

Efforts to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon remain the Trump administration's top priority.

"The Iran deal left Iran with future pathways to pursue nuclear weapons," the White House said. "The regime was allowed to preserve its nuclear infrastructure, keep enriching uranium, and continue research and development.

The deal, it added, "included incomplete mechanisms for inspections and verification."

Even while technically abiding by the nuclear agreement, Iran continued some of its most secretive and contested nuclear work.

"The extensive nuclear archive exposed by Israel proves Tehran pursued nuclear weapons and secretly preserved its blueprints and database to do so," the White House said. "The deal failed to address Iran's wide range of malign activities, including its global terrorist campaign, unjust detention of Americans, ballistic missile development, and more."

The Trump administration, as part of its maximum pressure campaign on Tehran, will continue to target Iran's key industries and those tied to its nuclear program and other illicit trade operations.

"This maximum pressure campaign is working, having already denied the regime direct access to more than $10 billion in oil revenue since May 2018," the White House said. "The Trump administration will continue to apply maximum pressure on the Iranian regime until its leaders change their destructive behavior and return to the negotiating table."

On the congressional side, longtime Republican Iran critics joined together to offer a resolution urging greater sanctions on Iran without exception. Some Iran hawks have been critical of the Trump administration and its State Department for not taking an aggressive stance on these sanctions in recent months.

"Today marks one year since the United States withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal and imposed a maximum pressure campaign against the regime," Sen. Tom Cotton (R., Ark.), one of the sponsors of the resolution, said in a statement. "Now, Iran is threatening to stockpile and resume enrichment of uranium unless we relent and bail out its dying economy. I hope Iran's threats serve as a wakeup call for our European allies and partners, as well as members of the business community."

"Any attempt to invest in the Iranian market, under any circumstances other than Iran's complete and verifiable cessation of its full range of malign activities, will be fraught with huge legal and financial risks," Cotton warned. "Businesses should not put themselves in that compromising position, and our European partners should not give in to Iran's high-stakes nuclear blackmail."

Sen. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.), another sponsor of the resolution, said the United States must keep up the pressure on Tehran to combat its growing ballistic missile program and military interventionism across the region, including in Syria.

"The Obama Iran nuclear deal was a catastrophe for the national security of the United States and our allies," Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas), also a sponsor of the resolution, said in a statement. "It legalized Iran's nuclear and ballistic missile programs, and was designed to fully expire and lift restrictions on Iran in the next few years.

"In the face of enormous amount of opposition, President Trump made the right call by terminating U.S. participation in the deal and imposing pressure on the Ayatollahs," Cruz said. "Now there should be a consensus that there's no reason to re-enter a deal that will be winding down anyway."