Haley: U.S. allies doing business with Iran "have a decision to make" to avoid sanctions

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley says allied countries like the U.K. shouldn't count on winning exemptions from sanctions against doing business with Iran stemming from President Trump's decision to pull out of the 2015 nuclear deal. 

Asked on "Face the Nation" on Sunday whether remaining signatories of the nuclear pact could face penalties for continued business relationships with Iran, Haley said those countries will have to weigh the benefit of dealing with Iran against the risk of U.S. sanctions. 

"The Europeans have a decision to make. And I think that decision is already being made. If you look, they are dropping business from Iran left and right," Haley said. "We will have decisions to make in terms whether they get exemptions or not, but I'll tell you right now, we're going to be really tough on Iran. We're not giving them a pass."

The Trump administration's decision to pull out of the nuclear pact allowed for a 90- to 120-day wind-down period for business activities with Iran. New sanctions rolled out earlier last month apply to any purchase of U.S. bank notes by Iran's government, Iran's trade in precious metals, the country's automotive sector and issuing of sovereign debt. A second batch of sanctions directly targeting Iran's oil industry and central bank are due to take effect in November.

"Our decision was that hundreds of billions of dollars was going to Iran and in return they were having ballistic missile testing, they were selling arms to terrorist fighters, they were basically continuing to support terrorism," Haley said in justifying the sanctions. "And what we said was, 'We're not going to give you money to continue to do those bad things.'" 

The European Union has imposed its own "blocking statute" meant to protect European businesses that might otherwise be impacted by the U.S. sanctions.

Mr. Trump has threatened that "anyone doing business with Iran will not be doing business with the U.S." In an interview airing Monday on "CBS This Morning," British Prime Minister Theresa May said the U.K. believes Iran is in compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal.

"We believe that [the agreement] should stay in place," she said. "And others involved in putting that deal together believe that it should stay in place."

Haley said that the president's warning still applies and will be a topic of discussion at this week's United Nations General Assembly meeting.

"That's a conversation for Prime Minister May and President Trump to have, but that's still very much the case, we're not going to give exemptions to Iran, we're not going to allow them any money to continue to build nuclear weapons," Haley said. "And so we're going to continue to stay tough on this."

Haley also said the situation in Syria is moving in the right direction, but reiterated warnings to Syrian President Bashar Assad against the use of chemical weapons or military force in the region of Idlib, the last major area held by the armed opposition. She said the U.S. has no intention of forcing Assad from power but said she believes his days are numbered.

"I think he's [Assad] going to stay in power for now. The U.S. certainly isn't in any way trying to to force him out, but we don't think he's going to stay," she said. "There's no way the Syrian people are going to allow it. There's no way, the Iranians, the Russians think that having him there is a good thing. So I think it's a matter of time before he's gone."

  • Emily Tillett

    Emily Tillett is a politics reporter and video editor for CBS News Digital