TEHRAN – Iran's president dismissed U.S. efforts to restore all U.N. sanctions on the country as mounting economic pressure from Washington pushed the local currency down to its lowest level ever on Sunday.
Iran’s currency dropped to 272,500 to the U.S. dollar at money exchange shops across Tehran.
The rial has lost more than 30% of its value to the dollar since June as sweeping U.S. sanctions on Iran continue to crush its ability to sell oil globally. Iran’s currency was at 32,000 rials to the dollar at the time of Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, which was signed by the Obama administration but which the Trump administration pulled the U.S. out of.
As the currency plummeted, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani slammed the Trump administration's declaration Saturday that all U.N. sanctions against Iran have been reimposed because Tehran is not complying with the nuclear deal.
“If America uses its bullying ... and does something in practice, it will have to face our decisive response," Rouhani said in a Cabinet meeting Sunday.
Rouhani said that, if the deal's remaining signatories fully carry out their obligations under the agreement, Iran will walk back its steps away from the deal. For Iran, being able to sell oil remains its most important concern.
The U.S. move to reimpose sanctions has been rejected as illegal by most of the rest of the world and sets the stage for an ugly showdown at the world body ahead of its annual General Assembly this week.
Even before the U.S. declaration, other Security Council members had vowed to ignore it. They say the U.S. lost legal standing to invoke snapback sanctions when President Donald Trump withdrew from the nuclear deal in 2018 and began reimposing U.S. sanctions on Iran.
France, Germany and Britain issued a joint statement Sunday reiterating that they contest the legal basis of the Trump administration's bid to activate the “snapback” sanctions mechanism because the United States withdrew from the nuclear accord.
The statement said “it follows that any decision or action taken on the basis of this procedure ... are without effect in law.” The three countries stressed they remain determined to preserve the nuclear deal with Iran.
Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi on Sunday welcomed the U.S. sanctions efforts. He called on France, Britain and Germany to withdraw their opposition and support a “rigorous implementation of the sanctions.” Israel views Iran as its greatest threat, and has hailed Trump’s decision to withdraw from the 2015 nuclear deal and reimpose sanctions.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said the snapback sanctions have only happened in “the fantastical world” of the Trump administration. He said the U.S. stands on the wrong side of history.
"They are attempting to make everyone believe it, but nobody is buying it except for themselves,” Khatibzadeh said during his weekly press briefing on Sunday.
“It is a television show whose sole presenter, viewers and those cheering it on are Mr. Pompeo himself and a handful of others,” the spokesman said, referring to the U.S. secretary of state.
The White House plans to issue an executive order on Monday spelling out how the U.S. will enforce the restored sanctions, and the State and Treasury departments are expected to outline how foreign individuals and businesses will be penalized for violations.
Tensions are running high between Iran and the U.S., particularly since a U.S. strike in January killed Iranian Revolutionary Guard Gen. Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad, prompting Tehran to retaliate with a ballistic missile strike on Iraqi bases housing American troops.
Associated Press writers Elaine Ganley in Paris and Fares Akram in Gaza City, Gaza Strip contributed to this report.