Trump's next moves to tank the Iranian economy

Illustration: Rawf8/Getty Images

The Trump administration plans to target a new sector of the Iranian economy with significant new sanctions this week, two senior administration officials told me, speaking anonymously because they were not authorized to reveal the new sanctions. The officials would not say what sector the administration will target, but it won't be the energy sector.

Driving the news: The administration will likely announce this new wave of sanctions on Wednesday — marking the one year anniversary of President Trump's withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal.

The Wall Street Journal reported last week that new sanctions would target petrochemical sales. I'm told the administration will likely impose those sanctions soon, but the new sanctions planned for this week will target a different sector of the Iranian economy.

Why this matters: The Trump administration has been working to starve the Iranian regime of cash. But the administration is also trying to chill Iran's growth prospects by limiting the diversification of its economy, senior officials tell me.

Between the lines: Trump officials point to three possible outcomes of these efforts:

  • The cash-strapped Iranian regime comes back to the negotiation table to offer the U.S. a more favorable nuclear deal (no sign of this happening).
  • The regime hangs tight, but with far less money — in and of itself a good thing, in Trump's view. Iran's leaders will be forced to decide how to spend dwindling revenues, especially as flash floods and desert locusts besiege the Iranian countryside.
  • The Iran regime collapses. National security adviser John Bolton has long hoped for "the overthrow of the mullahs' regime in Tehran," though the Trump administration claims its official policy is not regime change.

The big picture: As we recently detailed, Iran's economy has been in free-fall since Trump withdrew the U.S. from the Iran nuclear deal and reimposed strict sanctions.

  • Iran's currency has plummeted, and dozens of European businesses have pulled out. The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank have issued dire forecasts for Iran's economy.
  • Iran also suffers from a fall in foreign direct investment. A senior administration official who receives updates on Iranian investment told me the country signed one foreign investment contract between January and March — "a deal with a Chinese company to build a petrochemical plant in Khuzestan."

What's next? Both officials said the regime could respond in a way that is "highly unpredictable" — diplo-speak for violent.

  • "So we are extremely mindful of security here at home," one added.

Go deeper: Trump's maximum pressure campaign hammers Iranian economy

Additional Stories

Axios Dashboard

Keep up with breaking news throughout the day — sign up for our alerts.

Supreme Court to decide on release of Trump’s financial records

President Trump. Photo: BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI / Contributor/Getty Images

The Supreme Court agreed on Friday to take on three cases involving President Trump's finances to determine whether he can block the release of his records.

Why it matters: The court's ruling could give the American public a look at the president's finances after he has gone to great lengths to keep them under wraps.

Bloomberg: UK elections are the "canary in the coal mine" to 2020 Democrats

Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg at the climate meeting in Madrid, Dec. 10, 2019. Photo: Pablo Blazquez Dominguez/Getty Images

Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is calling Boris Johnson's decisive victory in Britain's election the "canary in the coal mine" for the Democratic Party about its chances of unseating President Trump in 2020.

Why it matters: The latest entry to the Democratic presidential primary field said Friday the U.K. results reinforce the idea that it's simply not enough for Democrats to assume they will beat Trump next year.

Ukraine still seeking White House meeting for Zelensky

Trump and Zelensky at the UN in September. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Dmytro Kuleba told reporters in Washington on Friday that Ukraine is still working to schedule a White House meeting for President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Why it matters: Kuleba emphasized that Ukraine needs strong support from the U.S. despite the current "turmoil" — a reference to impeachment proceedings. His status as the first member of Zelensky's government to visit Washington underlines the fact that Zelensky's own visit — which U.S. officials linked to Zelensky announcing investigations sought by President Trump — still has not happened.

Scoop: House Dems attend Trump's holiday party amid impeachment

President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump greet guests at the Congressional Ball at the White House. (Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Half a dozen House Democrats attended the White House Congressional Ball last night while their colleagues on the Judiciary Committee worked late into the night on articles of impeachment, according to two sources familiar with the event.

Why it matters: If you're looking for clues about which House Democrats might vote against impeaching President Trump next week, one tempting place to start is with those who chose to be Trump's guests at the annual ball — but that doesn't mean the two lists will totally overlap.

Nothing but sunshine for AVs in Florida

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Florida has become a hotbed for self-driving cars, thanks to its mild weather, unique demographics, lenient laws and an ambitious state senator.

Why it matters: States at the forefront of autonomous vehicle testing stand to reap the economic benefits — and perhaps problems, too — of self-driving cars.

U.S. and China reach "phase one" trade deal to avert December tariffs

Photo: Artyom Ivanov/TASS via Getty Images

The U.S. and China agreed to a "phase one" trade deal on Friday, which President Trump touted in a series of tweets.

The state of play: The deal averts a new round of tariffs scheduled to go into effect on Dec. 15, and a Chinese official said that the U.S. would reduce its tariffs on Chinese goods in stages, per Bloomberg. The deal includes an agreement from China to increase imports from the U.S. and purchase agricultural goods.

Scoop: The World Bank told Taiwanese staff to get Chinese passports

This year, the World Bank told current and prospective employees of Taiwanese nationality they must present Chinese travel documents in order to maintain or pursue employment.

Why it matters: China has recently ramped up its campaign to systematically force Taiwan and its citizens out of the international community. But forcing out its own staff in this way violates World Bank employment principles.

Read more at Axios
© Copyright Axios 2019