Iran weighs response on sanctions

‘The economy is turning into a jungle’

TEHRAN, Iran — As Iranians awoke Tuesday to renewed U.S. sanctions that had been lifted by Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers, the question on everyone’s mind remained: What happens now?

From deciphering Pres­i­dent Donald Trump’s tweets on Iran — including one demanding “WORLD PEACE” — to trying to figure out how much their cratering currency is worth, Iranians appear divided on how to respond.

The same goes for their theocratic government, which for now is abiding by the atomic accord. President Hassan Rouhani, a relative moderate whose administration struck the 2015 deal, has taken an increasingly confrontational line in recent weeks, applauded by hard-liners who had long opposed him. Then in a speech on live television Monday night, Rouhani seemed to suggest that direct talks with Trump could be possible.

That’s something North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-hu, who visited Tehran on Tuesday and met with its leadership, knows firsthand.

Whether Iran should choose a North Korea-style photo-op with the American president who backed out of the nuclear deal or abandon the unraveling accord and increase its uranium enrichment remains a fiercely debated question in Iran. But everyone agrees something has to be done soon, as sporadic protests across the country of 80 million people only add to the pressure.

“The situation is not good right now; nothing is clear,” said Ebrahim Gholamnejad, a 41-year-old carpenter. “The economy is turning into a jungle.”

The newly imposed American sanctions target U.S. dollar financial transactions, Iran’s automotive sector, and the purchase of commercial planes and metals, including gold. Even stronger sanctions targeting Iran’s oil sector and central bank are to be re-imposed in early November.

On Tuesday, German car and truck maker Daimler AG said it was suspending its “very limited” activities in Iran and shuttering a representative office. European companies had known since Trump’s announcement in May that sanctions were coming back. Airbus at that time suspended plane deliveries to Iran; of 98 orders, only one A321 had been delivered, plus two A330s that were sold to a company that leased them to an Iranian customer.