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Iran sanctions: "Maximum" economic pressure, Treasury's Mnuchin says

Tough sanctions start Monday in Iran

The U.S. is moving to hit Iran economically with what U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin calls a "maximum pressure" campaign against the country's energy and banking sectors. 

The Trump administration on Monday said it is re-imposing sanctions on the Iranian regime's energy, shipping and financial sectors, targeting over 700 entities. Many of these companies initially were targeted by sanctions under President Barack Obama, but the restrictions were subsequently lifted when the U.S. struck a deal with Iran in 2015 over its nuclear ambitions. Three hundred of the entities are new targets.

In a press conference with Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, Mnuchin said the sanctions are Treasury's "largest single-day action ever targeting Iran." The Trump administration is providing waivers to eight countries, allowing them to continue to import oil from Iran, which Pompeo said was necessary "to ensure a well-supplied oil market."

The countries receiving waivers are China, Greece, India, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Turkey, and will be able to continue to purchase Iranian oil as long as they work to reduce imports to zero. 

The sanctions target Iran's energy, financial and shipping sectors and are aimed at damaging the country's economy following President Donald Trump's withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal. The measures taking effect Monday restore all the sanctions that had previously been lifted under the accord, which had given Iran billions of dollars in sanctions relief in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program.

Mr. Trump said Monday that the measures are the "toughest sanctions ever imposed" on Iran, telling reporters at Joint Base Andrews that Iranian oil prices can go "down to zero."

Iran remains defiant as toughened U.S. sanctions kick in

"The Iranian regime has a choice: It can either do a 180-degree turn from its outlaw course of action and act like a normal country, or it can see its economy crumble," Pompeo said at the press conference.

The sanctions target 50 Iranian banks and their foreign and domestic subsidiaries, as well as more than 200 people and vessels in Iran's shipping and energy sectors, Treasury said in a statement. It also covers an Iranian airline, Iran Air, and more than 65 of its aircraft. 

"We are intent on making sure the Iranian regime stops siphoning its hard currency reserves into corrupt investments and the hands of terrorists," Mnuchin said in a statement. 

-- With reporting from the Associated Press.