Mike Pompeo, US secretary of state, announcing the administration’s measures on Monday © POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Donald Trump has authorised new sanctions and claimed that a UN arms embargo has been restored against Iran, despite objections from fellow members of the UN security council.

“This executive order is critical to enforcing the UN arms embargo on Iran,” Mr Trump said in a statement of the unilateral US action. He said he was also imposing additional sanctions on more than two dozen individuals and entities that support Iran’s weapons activities.

Even before the announcement, however, France, Germany and the UK said the US effort to reimpose UN sanctions “was incapable of having legal effect”.

They have argued Washington cannot take such measures because it has already withdrawn from the 2015 multi-party deal that waived the sanctions. Mr Trump withdrew the US from the agreement, which was intended to prevent Iran from gaining a nuclear weapon, in 2018.

“We have worked tirelessly to preserve the nuclear agreement and remain committed to do so,” foreign ministers of the three countries said in a joint statement on Sunday.

Iran has already claimed victory, saying the US’s actions highlighted how it had become diplomatically isolated.

“We can say that the US’s ‘maximum pressure’ policy against Iran has caused a failure and isolation for the US itself,” Iran’s president Hassan Rouhani said on Sunday. “What the Security Council did in ignoring the US’s demands and not holding a session was valuable.”

A regime insider close to hardline forces in Iran dismissed the Trump administration’s actions as closer to “barking than biting” and predicted the US “will not further squeeze Iran”.

Since taking the US out of the Iran nuclear deal — claiming the accord had failed to prevent Iran’s destabilising regional activities or halt its weapons programmes — the Trump administration has attempted to exert maximum pressure on Tehran in pursuit of a new, tougher deal.

Mr Trump has repeatedly claimed he could strike a new bargain with Iran if he is re-elected in November. But Iran has vowed not to negotiate with him so long as sanctions are strictly enforced. 

Mr Trump’s Democratic presidential opponent, Joe Biden, has said he would re-enter the nuclear deal, which was negotiated during the Obama administration, where he served as vice-president, if Iran returns to compliance with the agreement. The republic’s leaders have hinted they might authorise such negotiations if Mr Biden were elected.

Iran’s commander of aerospace forces of the Revolutionary Guards said on Monday that the country’s military plans would not change in any way because “we are self-sufficient” in producing weapons. Brigadier General Amir-Ali Hajizadeh told local reporters that if the UN arms embargo on Iran was lifted in October, the country could export its domestically produced weapons. Otherwise, he said, the US “cannot do a damn thing”.

Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, who accused the US of “bullying”, said Iran could procure “its essential needs from countries such as Russia and China”.

US secretary of state Mike Pompeo and US defence secretary Mark Esper were among senior Trump administration officials who announced Monday’s measures. Venezuela’s president Nicolás Maduro, who has developed commercial ties with Iran, was also put under additional US sanctions.

“The US can keep adding names [and] entities to its sanctions list but it does not change the essential fact that the Trump administration is isolated on Iran policy,” said Barbara Slavin, an Iran expert at the Atlantic Council. “The majority of the international community wants to preserve the [Iran nuclear deal] and sees US efforts to destroy the agreement as counterproductive, destabilising and vindictive,” she added.

Ellie Geranmayeh, an Iran specialist at the European Council on Foreign Relations think-tank, said the scope and reach of the new measures were “somewhat limited” and indicated a “degree of exhaustion that’s being reached by US sanctions policy”.

Additional reporting by Michael Peel in Brussels and Cody Weddle

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