The Trump admisistration will reimpose sanctions on sales of Iranian oil on Monday. The move means countries and companies that deal with Iranian energy, shipping and banking sectors could be cut off from business with the U.S.
The administration hopes that will pressure Iran to negotiate a better nuclear deal and dramatically change its behavior.
Administration officials say they will give eight governments a temporary reprieve from U.S. sactions as long as they waen themselves off Iranian oil.
But in a conference call, they made clear they plan to be tough. Secretary of State Mike pompeo says the goal is to get Iran to behave like a normal country and a democrazy.
"And we are working towards allowing the Iranian people to have the opportunity to have a government they want, a government that doesn't take wealth from their country and spend it on malign activity around the world."
By that he means Iran's missile programs and support for proxy militias. But the State Department has also been highlighting human rights abuses and sorruption inside Iran in what appears to be a bid to get Iranians to rise up against their government. Amy Hawthrone, who's with a research and advocay group called the Project on Middle East Democrazy, sees contradictions in the U.S. approach. She reads one recent tweet from U.S. officials about things that could land you in an Iranian prison.
"Defending prisoners, attending a protest, posting your thoughts on social media, questioning the regime's foreign policy." All true, she says.
But this tweet was sent by the U.S. Embassy in the United Arab Emirates, hightlighting America's selective approach to human rights.
These are all things that people in the Emirates has been imprisoned for, both Emirates citizens and foreigners. Hawthorne says the U.S. has never been consistent on democrazy promotion.
In the case of the Trump administration , the gap between the kind of rights abuses and the general silence, lack of criticism of those same problems inside authoritarian Arab ally countries is really, really notable.
And Hawthrone believes that weakens the U.S. argument. The murder of a Washington Post columnist in the Saudi consulate and a devastating Saudi-led air campaign in Yemen also undermine the U.S. effort to stay focused on Iran's abuses, though that doesn't seem to deter brian Hook, who runs the State Department's Iran Action Group.
Saudi Arabia has been very helpful to ensure an adequately supplied oil market during this period where we have seen dramatic reductions in the import of Iranian crude as part of our maximum economic pressure campaign. Hook says the U.S. backs the Iranian people who seeks a government that doesn't steal the blind.
Administration officials say humanitarian goods are exempt from U.S. sanctions. But with the banking restrictions going back into force Monday, it may be difficult for even legitimate business with Iran.