Iranian President Hassan Rouhani vowed to defy US sanctions as penalties targeting the country's oil-and-gas sector went into effect on Monday.
The most biting round of sanctions since US President Donald Trump pulled out of the landmark 2015 deal to curtail Iran's nuclear program came into force Monday. The move targets Iran's oil-and-gas, shipbuilding, shipping and banking industries.
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Iran will "proudly break the unjust sanctions," Rouhani said in public remarks during a cabinet meeting Monday. "We must make the Americans understand in clear language that they cannot deal with us with force, pressure and sanctions."
Last week, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that eight "jurisdictions" would receive temporary waivers from energy-related sanctions. Some of these are believed to be some of the largest recipients of Iranian oil exports, potentially curbing the effects of the sanctions.
Japan, South Korea and India are widely expected to be given exemptions.
Pompeo said countries are getting waivers "only because they have demonstrated significant reductions in their crude oil, and cooperation on many other fronts," but Rouhani hailed the exemptions as a "victory."
"The fact that the US has exempted eight countries from the sanctions after they threatened to bring Iran oil exports to zero, isn't this a victory for us? And isn't this a retreat for the United States?" said Rouhani on Monday.
"The Islamic Republic of Iran can sell its oil and will sell its oil even if the eight countries had not been exempted from the sanctions," he added.
Meanwhile, foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi said Monday that Iran had devised policies to "nullify the sanctions."
"Trump's policies will not work. We will pass this stage very soon," said Qassemi, calling the sanctions "an addiction of the United States."
Monday's sanctions are the second round of reimposed penalties since Trump pulled out of the nuclear deal in May. In August, a round of sanctions targeted Iran's aviation and automotive industries.
The US withdrawal from the pact spurred an exodus of international companies from Iran, including European giants Total and Airbus. The value of Iran's rial plummeted by around 70%, and inflation has spiraled.
As Iranians braced for the new round of sanctions, Tehran's streets have been charged with anger and despair. Government-organized demonstrations in the center of the capital have struck a defiant tone against Trump's policies.
People privately worry that there appears to be no end in sight, fearing that sanctions may cause shortages of food and medicine, as well increasing youth unemployment, which is currently estimated to be around 40%.
China, which is a signatory to the nuclear agreement, said it "regrets the decision" in a daily briefing at the Foreign Affairs Ministry.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Hu Chunying went on to criticize the unilateral sanctions and "long arm jurisdiction."
"Iran has strictly fulfilled its obligations in the nuclear area in accordance with the Comprehensive Plan so far," said Chunying, referring to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the Iran nuclear deal.
"The International Atomic Energy Agency has confirmed it for 12 consecutive times. China appreciates the efforts of Iran," he added. The US State Department has also certified several times that Iran was sticking to its end of the deal -- halting nuclear enrichment -- in exchange for sanctions relief.