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German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas gives a statement in Berlin on May 9, 2018, after President Trump pulled the U.S. out the Iran nuclear deal. Photo: Odd Andersen/AFP via Getty Images

Secretary of State Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Mnuchin recently rejected a European appeal for sanctions exemptions for firms conducting business with Iran. The U.S. denial is a response to a June letter from European finance and foreign ministers underscoring their intent to continue sanctions relief per the nuclear deal. The EU is also trying to enhance its blocking statute, which would attempt to deter companies from complying with U.S. sanctions.

The big picture: The Trump administration is investing heavily in financial tools to compel Iran to change its behavior in the region and to negotiate a new nuclear deal consistent with U.S. parameters. Meanwhile, European political leaders are continuing their search for a sanctions-proof financial channel to keep Iran in the current agreement.

Although the Treasury Department has called the 180 days following the U.S. withdrawal from the Iran deal a “wind-down period,” Washington is using that time to grow designations, revoke licenses and apply other forms of pressure on Iran. This concurrent “ramp-up” appears aimed at accomplishing four things:

  1. Signaling U.S. resolve for allies and adversaries to enforce secondary sanctions and other penalties
  2. Working to expedite the exodus of foreign firms from the Iranian market
  3. Persuading European politicians to aid sanctions enforcement with a firmer Iran policy
  4. Impeding the activities of Iran-linked militants and other actors that either support or engage in terrorism and regional destabilization

What’s next: Two major sanctions-implementation deadlines loom. On August 6, the U.S. will implement automotive and precious-metals sanctions on Iran, and on November 4, the U.S. will restore its energy, shipping and other financial sanctions, culminating in a full restoration of pre-deal penalties. It remains unclear, however, how the U.S. will square these measures with statements about selectively considering waivers for states that wish to continue purchasing Iranian oil.

The bottom line: For Europe, a restoration of U.S. sanctions followed by a resumption of Iranian nuclear activity would signal diplomatic defeat on two fronts. But the Trump administration continues to take a tough line — both in private and public — in order to achieve its desired results.

Behnam Ben Taleblu is a research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

Go deeper

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Unvaccinated athletes face 21-day quarantine at Beijing Olympics

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Athletes, staff members and journalists at the 2022 Beijing Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games who have not been vaccinated against the coronavirus will be required to quarantine for three weeks, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) outlined in its newly-published "playbooks."

Why it matters: The quarantine period is longer than the Games themselves, meaning vaccinations or an earlier arrival date will be required to participate in or cover the Games.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
4 hours ago - Economy & Business

FTX CEO predicts more U.S. crypto flight

Photo: "Axios on HBO"

FTX doesn't look much like a company valued at $25 billion. Its new headquarters, located in a sleepy part of The Bahamas, is so nondescript as to not even have a sign. But it does expect to soon have neighbors.

Driving the news: Founder and CEO Sam Bankman-Fried tells "Axios on HBO" to expect "more and more crypto flight from the states" if the U.S. doesn't soon create a regulatory regime for cryptocurrencies.

Developed countries reveal $100 billion climate finance plan ahead of COP26

Alok Sharma, head of the UN Climate Summit in Glasgow, speaks in Paris on Oct. 12. ( Li Yang/China News Service via Getty Images)

After 12 years of fits and starts, industrialized nations on Monday put forward a detailed plan to provide at least $100 billion annually in climate aid to developing countries starting by 2023.

Why it matters: The plan, presented by representatives of Canada and Germany, is aimed at defusing one of the biggest sources of tension at COP26, which is the failure of industrialized nations to follow through on their financial commitments.