Iranian President Hassan Rouhani vowed to "proudly break the unjust sanctions" the Trump administration re-imposed on Monday amid warnings that the sanctions will primarily impact the Iranian people and that U.S. President Donald Trump intends to destabilize the nation rather than improve diplomatic relations or the nuclear treaty from which Trump withdrew earlier this year.
"We are in the economic war situation. We are confronting a bullying enemy."
—Iranian President Hassan Rouhani
"We must make the Americans understand in clear language that they cannot deal with us with force, pressure, and sanctions," Rouhani reportedly said during public remarks at a cabinet meeting on Monday. This round of sanctions targets Iran's oil-and-gas, shipbuilding, shipping, and banking industries.
"The fact that the U.S. has exempted eight countries from the sanctions after they threatened to bring Iran oil exports to zero, isn't this a victory for us? And isn't this a retreat for the United States?" he added. "The Islamic Republic of Iran can sell its oil and will sell its oil even if the eight countries had not been exempted from the sanctions."
Rouhani also compared Trump to former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein during the 1980s Iran-Iraq war.
"We are in the economic war situation. We are confronting a bullying enemy," he said. "Yesterday, Saddam was in front [of] us, today Trump is front of us. There is no difference. We must resist and win."
This is the second round of sanctions that Trump has imposed on Iran since violating and ultimately withdrawing from the 2015 nuclear deal, officially called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). As European and Iranian leaders continue working to salvage the deal, the Trump administration has doubled down on its position.
After the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ordered the administration last month to ease sanctions impacting humanitarian aid and aviation safety, ruling that they violated the 1955 Treaty of Amity, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that rather than complying, the United States was terminating the bilateral agreement. Later that day, National Security Adviser John Bolton announced the administration was launching a review of all international treaties that could lead to more rulings by the U.N.'s principal judicial organ.
"Everything [the Trump administration is] doing indicates actually that negotiations is really not the objective... I think the real objective here is to cause massive instability inside of Iran, potentially followed by military strikes."
—Trita Parsi, NIAC
In an interview with CNN International early Monday, Trita Parsi, co-founder of the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), pushed back against Trump's claims that his administration hopes to force negotiations with Iran, pointing out that Iran is still actively working with European leaders to uphold the JCPOA even while the U.S. imposes sanctions.
"Everything [the Trump administration is] doing indicates actually that negotiations is really not the objective there. If you wanted negotiations, first of all, the easiest way of doing so would be to actually honor the existing deal and ask for additional negotiations on top of the existing deal," he said. "That's not what this administration has done. They have gone and destroyed a fully functioning deal and now they're trying to punish countries that are actually abiding by a U.N. Security Council resolution."
"I think the real objective here is to cause massive instability inside of Iran, potentially followed by military strikes," Parsi continued. "I think the objective here is to just truly try to shift the balance of power away from Iran in the region and in favor of Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Israel—three countries that have been very aggressive in pushing the administration in this direction and who have a long track record, prior to this administration, of pushing the United States to go to war with Iran."
Noting that the sanctions' major impact "will be on the population and not on the government," and that the primary goal of the administration seems to be to cause pain that foments unrest within Iran, Parsi warned that although Iranian leadership is currently still abiding by the JCPOA, "the main risk is that the Iranians will start concluding that perhaps they too should walk out of this deal, and then we'll have a really bad scenario because then the drum beats of war are gonna get very, very high again."