published: 2019-05-14 15:11:13
(9 May 2019) American sanctions have come for Iran’s government, its paramilitary forces and the oil industry that funds them.
On Thursday, they finally reached the scrap yard and sheet metal that literally holds Iran together.
New American sanctions imposed as Iran announced its partial withdraw from its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers targeted the Islamic Republic’s domestic metal industry, a major employer in the nation and a rare bright spot for its anaemic economy.
While earlier sanctions seemed to target Iran’s leadership, these latest measures seem to be moving ever closer to directly striking the country’s 80 million people.
Many already feel resigned to the vice squeezing ever-more tightly around country, which has caused its rial currency to rapidly depreciate and push the price of nearly everything beyond the reach of the ordinary Iranian.
“Wars are no longer a thing,” said Ahmad Hashemi, a steel seller in southern Tehran.
“Nowadays wars are economic wars. Look at these sanctions. It’s so easy,” he added.
Trump issued an executive order Wednesday announcing new sanctions targeting Iran’s steel, aluminium, copper and iron sectors.
That came just after Iran threatened to enrich its uranium stockpile closer to weapons-grade levels in 60 days if European leaders fail to negotiate new terms to the nuclear deal to protect Iran’s ability to trade on the global market.
The sanctions come as part of Trump’s maximalist policy targeting Iran after he pulled out of the nuclear deal a year ago.
His administration contends that the nuclear deal reached by his predecessor Barack Obama should have included limits on Iran’s ballistic missile programme and its regional influence.
Supporters of the deal have described it as an important measure freezing Iran’s nuclear programme while offering a first step toward further negotiations with Tehran.
The new sanctions target Iran’s domestic metal industry, whose dozen of steel mills, mainly government-owned, employ some 50,000 workers.
Of the 25 million tons of steel products it produces, Iran exports over 30 percent of its stock, earning nearly 4 billion US dollars yearly.
Its top markets have been Thailand, the United Arab Emirates, Iraq and Indonesia, according to the US Commerce Department.
Domestically, Iran’s metal industry provides for some 3,000 factories and workshops around the country that produce from kitchen utensils and building frames to offshore rigs and military vehicles.
It also feeds into Iran’s domestic car manufacturing plants.
Metal-related industries in total represent some 10 percent of the country’s 22 million workers, a report by the country’s parliament said.
Already, protests have struck at steel mills.
In December, authorities detained an unspecified number of steel mill workers after five weeks of protests over delays in salaries.
After the U.S. withdrew from the accord, it restored the crippling sanctions, exacerbating Iran’s severe economic crisis.
The Iranian rial, which traded at 32,000 to 1 US dollars at the time of the accord, traded Thursday at 156,500, creeping ever downward.
“Even before the Iatest sanctions, the previous ones already impacted our daily lives and have been effective. If we say they had no effect we are deceiving ourselves,” said a 52-year-old engineer who gave his name as Afshin.
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