WASHINGTON/UNITED NATIONS (Dispatches) -- The United States re-imposed and strengthened economic sanctions on Iran's oil, banking and transportation sectors Monday after the Trump administration withdrew from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, and vowed further action to pressure Tehran.
The sanctions cover 50 Iranian banks and subsidiaries, more than 200 persons and vessels in its shipping sector, and targets Tehran's national airline, Iran Air, and more than 65 of its aircraft, the statement said.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said temporary oil waivers have been granted to China, India, South Korea, Turkey, Italy, Greece, Japan and Taiwan, some of which are Iran’s top customers. He added that more than 20 countries have already cut their oil imports from Iran, reducing them by more than 1 million barrels.
U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said he expects European nations to honor Iranian sanctions, but that certain transactions, including humanitarian ones, will be allowed.
Pompeo claimed that the sanctions will accelerate the rapid decline of Iran's international economic activity.
Iran's UN ambassador wrote in a letter to Secretary-General Antonio Guterres the United Nations should hold the U.S. accountable for re-imposing the sanctions on the grounds that they defy a UN Security Council resolution.
"The irresponsible conduct of the United States necessitates a collective response by the international community in order to uphold the rule of law, to prevent undermining diplomacy and to protect multilateralism," Gholamali Khoshroo wrote, calling for the United States to be held responsible.
Also Monday, the Belgium-based SWIFT financial messaging service said it is suspending some unspecified Iranian banks’ access to its messaging system in the interest of the stability and integrity of the global financial system.
In its brief statement, SWIFT made no mention of U.S. sanctions coming back into effect on some Iranian financial institutions.
U.S. President Donald Trump's national security adviser John Bolton said there will be additional sanctions, but gave no other details.
"We're going to have sanctions that even go beyond this. We're not simply going to be content with the level of sanctions that existed under (former U.S. President Barack) Obama in 2015," Bolton said in an interview on Fox Business Network, according to a transcript. "More are coming."
Iran dismissed as "economic war” the U.S. drive to curb Tehran’s missile and nuclear programs and diminish its influence in the Middle East.
Foreign Minister Muhammad Javad Zarif said the "bullying” restoration of oil and banking curbs was backfiring by making Washington more isolated, a reference to other world powers opposed to the initiative.
European powers which continue to back the nuclear deal said they opposed the reapplication of sanctions and major oil buyer China said it regretted the move.
"Today the enemy (the United States) is targeting our economy...the main target of sanctions is our people,” Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said.
"America wanted to cut to zero Iran’s oil sales...but we will continue to sell our oil...to break sanctions,” Rouhani told economists, adding the sanctions were illegal and unfair.
"This is an economic war against Iran but... America should learn that it cannot use the language of force against Iran ... We are prepared to resist any pressure,” Rouhani said.
Foreign Minister Zarif said Washington had made itself more isolated by pursuing the sanctions.
"U.S. bullying is backfiring... The U.S. — and not Iran — is isolated,” Zarif said in a tweet.
The European Union, France, Germany and Britain said they regretted the U.S. decision and would seek to protect European companies doing legitimate business with Tehran.
China, India, South Korea, Japan and Turkey - all top importers of Iranian oil - are among eight countries given temporary exemptions from the sanctions to ensure crude oil prices are not destabilized.
Rouhani said even without the waivers Iran would still be able to sell its oil.
Acclaimed British journalist Peter Oborne believes the American strategy is doomed to failure, and will likely end in humiliation for the U.S.
"In the medium term, it will backfire; the U.S. and its allies will lose influence, while Iran will gain confidence and power," he wrote on the website of the Middle East Eye.
"In the worst case scenario, it will result in a war whose consequences will be incalculable," he added.
The holes in Trump's strategy were outlined in an article in the New York Times earlier this week, pointing out that China and India will continue to buy Iranian oil in addition to Turkey and Russia.
Even close U.S. allies, including France and Germany, as well as Britain, have expressed their intention to continue trade with Iran without the use of the dollar.
"All of this means that the Trump administration has made an epic miscalculation," Oborne wrote.
"Trump thinks that he can take the international community with him as he embarks on his economic war against Iran. He can’t - and this spells mortal danger for the U.S.," he added.
According to the journalist, Trump is playing for very high stakes and "if he loses, much of the global power of the U.S. will collapse."
Successive U.S. presidents have used the reserve currency status of the U.S. dollar as a weapon to isolate the country’s enemies and to enforce its will.
"If Trump fails in his economic war against Iran - and I believe he will - it will signal to the world that the dollar can no longer be used as a foreign policy weapon," Oborne said.