Iran sanctions
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader of Iran (image via flickr)

On Monday, the Oval Office witnessed an angry old man, signing a document with global implication. What appeared to be restraint from the US President following the US drone downing by the Iranian force, seemed an illusion, or wishful thinking. The signing of President Trump’s sanctions made it clear that war has not averted.

The signing of an executive order by Trump has imposed new sanctions on Iran, which are aimed at pressuring the regime by denying its supreme leader access to key financial resources. The President has reiterated his earlier stance that “we cannot ever let Iran have a nuclear weapon.”

Besides the supreme leader, the new sanctions also apply to a string of military chiefs of Iran. Trump has threatened to ‘obliterate’ Iran it if seeks war. For Trump, “this is the strong and the proportionate response to Iran’s increasing provocative actions”, alluding to the last week’s drone incident and the last-minute order to stop the strikes by the US President.

Whether Trump’s earlier stance was a change of mind out of political calculations; or a change of heart out of compassion for the loss of 150 lives feared as a result of the strikes, will remain a mystery.

The US President adds that it is up to Iran whether it wants to end sanctions tomorrow or to live with them for years to come. However, the Iranian President’s response reminds one’s mind of the stubbornness of those two individuals who are competing to stare into each other’s eyes, with a target of not blinking first. Iran is as cold and stubborn as the US President has been. Neither seems to concede an inch to the other. The Iranian President views the new sanctions against the supreme leader as “useless”, adding that the move shows that the White House is “mentally retarded”, an allusion to the President obviously.

These political developments come after a week since the Iranian forces shot down a surveilling US drone, whose aerial location is disputed by both the countries. Iranian claim implies that the drone was spying within its territorial boundary, while the US claims that the drone was floating over the Strait of Hormuz when it was shot down by Iran.

The US also accuses Iran of engineering ship attacks in the region that damaged six oil tankers near Strait of Hormuz, from where crosses a fifth of the world’s oil each day.

The tensions in the US-Iran relations have soared since May 2018, when the US President abruptly abandoned the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and the six world powers. Trump had then immediately reinstated the sanctions on Iran.

The new sanctions seem to be even more provocative, and Iran’s knee jerk reaction indicates that the war has not averted. The last week’s restraint that Trump had shown by reversing the orders for strikes on Iran, must have disappointed hawks from both sides. But this US move will certainly give them a reason to live again.

Related: US-Iran: Trump’s Compassion Averts a War