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In yet another indication that U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration is reluctant to revive the Iran nuclear deal, the U.S. Department of State issued fresh sanctions against firms across the globe involved in oil and petrochemical trade with Iran on March 2.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken claimed that the “United States is committed to significantly reducing Iranian energy exports and will sanction those facilitating Iran’s petroleum and petrochemical trade.” He also warned that the U.S. “will not hesitate to take action against those who try to circumvent” existing sanctions on Iran.
Although the U.S. first sanctioned Iran in 1979, Iran has been subjected to increased economic and political sanctions ever since the Trump administration decided to unilaterally withdraw from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) or Iran nuclear deal in May 2018. By imposing fresh sanctions, Trump pursued what his administration called a “maximum pressure campaign” to force Iran to renegotiate the deal and include its regional and missile policies under the deal’s purview.
The U.S. accused the sanctioned companies of “knowingly engaging” in the transport of Iranian oil and petrochemicals in violation of existing sanctions.
As per the sanction regime, the assets belonging to these companies in the U.S. will be blocked and any transactions with these companies will lead to the imposition of sanctions on others as well.
Tunisians Mobilize Against Political Persecution and Government Failure to Address Economic Concerns
Tunisians took to the streets by the thousands on March 4 and 5 to denounce President Kais Saied’s government for silencing the opposition with threats of arrest and intimidation and to protest against the administration’s failure to address basic economic concerns plaguing the people of the country.
Protesters raised issues such as government restrictions on unions, the rising cost of living in Tunisia, and the government’s move to reduce subsidies on essential commodities like food and energy.
The protests on March 4 were organized by the Tunisian General Labor Union (UGTT) and the Tunisian Workers’ Party, among others. The protest on that day, which “appears to be the biggest” against Saied’s government so far, started from Tunis’s Mohamed Ali Square and ended at Habib Bourguiba Avenue.
More than a dozen activists, journalists, and judges have been arrested since February by the police in Tunisia. Some have been charged with “conspiracy against state security” and are being tried in military courts. The opposition said that this action by the government amounted to political persecution.
Those arrested so far include Issam Chebbi, head of the opposition Republican Party, two leading opposition members, Noureddine Boutar, a senior journalist, and Anis Kaabi, a senior union leader.
Addressing the protesters, secretary-general of the UGTT Noureddine Taboubi asserted that “the workers are united, and we have chosen the path of struggle; struggle does not come cheap.” He said that UGTT was opposed to the persecution of political figures and the “intimidation of their families,” and was committed to the protection of freedoms in the country.