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Iran vows to defy U.S. sanctions and resist 'psychological warfare' as embargo takes hold

Iran vows to defy U.S. sanctions and resist 'psychological warfare' as embargo takes hold
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks during a meeting with officials of Ministry of Finance in Tehran on Nov. 5. (Presidential Office Handout)

Iran's military forces staged war exercises and officials vowed to resist U.S. pressure Monday as the Trump administration reimposed harsh economic sanctions in a campaign to isolate the government in Tehran.

The unilateral sanctions reintroduce some of the most crippling restrictions on Iran's oil, shipping and banking sectors and seek to penalize even non-U.S. entities that do business with Iran.

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Iranian leaders called the sanctions "illegal" and said they would only hurt ordinary people. Iran's economy has faced stagnant growth and high unemployment, even after sanctions were lifted following a landmark 2015 nuclear deal it negotiated with world powers. In recent months, its currency has plummeted, causing rising prices and wiping out savings.

"We have to make Americans understand that they cannot talk to the great Iranian nation with the language of pressure and sanctions," Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Monday in televised remarks.

He spoke to a meeting of economists, who he said were at the "forefront of the resistance" against the United States.

"What the Americans are doing today is putting pressure merely on the people," he said, according to a transcript of the remarks posted on the president's website.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Twitter that "U.S. bullying is backfiring." He added: "The U.S. — & not Iran — is isolated."

The United States withdrew from the nuclear deal in May, saying it was too limited in scope. The Trump administration complained that the accord, negotiated between Iran and six world powers, did not go far enough in restricting Iran's nuclear program and did not cover other activities it finds objectionable.

Under the accord, Iran curbed its atomic energy program in exchange for broad relief from nuclear-related sanctions. Iran complied with the terms of the nuclear deal, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations' nuclear watchdog tasked with monitoring the country's nuclear activity. But the Trump administration demands that Iran change its "malign behavior" in the region, including ballistic missile development and support for regional proxies.

Iran is a key backer of militant groups in Syria, Lebanon and Iraq.

Iran experts warn, however, that sanctions are unlikely to alter Iranian influence or activities in the region. A report released Friday by the Brussels-based International Crisis Group tracked Iran's economic performance and regional policy over four decades and concluded that there was "little to no correlation between the two."

"Tehran has continued to pursue policies it deems central to its national security no matter its degree of economic wellbeing at home," the report said.

"The Trump administration's aggressive policy is likelier to spur Iran's regional activism than to curb it," it said.

Also Monday, Iran's military and its powerful Revolutionary Guard Corps staged joint war drills in the northern and western parts of the country, the official Islamic Republic News Agency said. The exercises include air defense systems and antiaircraft batteries.

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