Downplaying the impact of new US sanctions on Iranian banks, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani on Friday said the move is a “political propaganda” to appease domestic audience in the US.

Speaking to the head of Iran’s Central Bank, Rouhani struck a defiant tone, saying the new US sanctions targeting Iranian financial institutions “cannot break the resistance of Iranians”.

“Americans cannot break the resistance of the Iranian people by creating obstacles and problems in the supply of medicine and food,” Rouhani noted, in his conversation with Abdolnasser Hemmati.

The remarks came a day after the US government announced fresh sanctions targeting 18 Iranian banks under its “maximum pressure campaign”.

The move, which comes weeks before the presidential election in the US, aims to cut the remaining financial channels between Tehran and the world by blacklisting Iran’s entire banking sector.

The US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the move seeks to block Iran’s access to US dollars. “Our sanctions program will continue until Iran stops its support of terrorist activities and ends its nuclear program,” he said in a statement.

Rouhani, terming the move “cruel and inhumane”, said the US government has “done everything it can” against the people of Iran, but the actions have failed to break their resolve.

“Time has shown that such actions have proved ineffective,” he remarked, while in the same breath urging the world community to condemn the US action.

In his remarks, Hemmati said the new US sanctions on Iran is a “political move” that will not have an “economic impact”, while adding that such actions “would be recorded in the memory of Iranians”.

Hemmati said despite the US maximum pressure campaign against Iran, they have managed to provide medicine and food to people, without allowing any shortage.

“The Central Bank, in coordination with the private sector, will make all efforts to continue providing food and medicine to people and we will not allow any pressure on people,” he said.

He also said that the fresh sanctions do not invalidate the exemptions provided for humanitarian trade, which allows Iran to use SWIFT mechanism for purchase of essential commodities and medicine.

The fresh sanctions come at a time when Iran is grappling with the third wave of coronavirus, with new infections and fatalities touching record high every day.

The new sanctions have drawn condemnation from many senior Iranian officials. On Thursday evening, Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said the US administration seeks to “blow up our remaining channels to pay for food and medicine”, adding that Iranians “will survive this latest of cruelties”.

Feeling the heat

While top Iranian officials have struck a defiant tone, people in the country are in despair, expecting further economic hardships with turbulence in forex market and rising inflation.

“It is easy to say all is well and this shall pass too, but we cannot live in denial,” Ali Qorbani, a Tehran-based trader told Anadolu Agency. “These concerns are real and we are feeling the heat.”

US government has upped the ante against Iran since withdrawing from the 2015 nuclear agreement in May 2018, followed by reinstatement of sanctions.

However, since the beginning of this year, tensions have escalated alarmingly with Trump administration announcing “maximum pressure” campaign to choke Iran’s financial channels.

Last month, after its demand for extension of arms embargo on Iran was turned down by the UN Security Council, the US announced the re-instatement of all UN sanctions on Iran.

In recent weeks, the price of essential commodities in Iran has skyrocketed with the value of Iran’s currency nose-diving to record low.

“The situation is indeed grave and depressing and we can all feel the pressure,” Mariam, a university student who also works as a sales-girl, told Anadolu Agency. “While income of people has dwindled, the living costs have surged. There seems to be no way out of this dark tunnel”.

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