Australian Nuclear Horn Aids India (Daniel 7)

‘Australia hopeful of sending uranium shipment to India soon’

ANI | Updated: Sep 19, 2018 04:34 IST

New Delhi [India], Sept 19 (ANI): Australia‘s High Commissioner to India, Harinder Sidhu, on Tuesday expressed hope that the country would be sending a consignment of uranium to India in the near future.

Speaking at the Australia Fest here, Sidhu said, “Foreign Minister Julie Bishop was here (in India last year) and after Prime Minister’s visit, she had mentioned some samples were sent to the Indian authorities for testing to make sure that uranium was fit to be sold. I understand that conversations are going on and we are genuinely hopeful that there will be a shipment of uranium in the near future. I can assure that from the Australian government’s perspective, there is a high level of support and we’re very keen to see such progress.”

Australia is one of the world’s largest exporters of uranium ore, having 40 per cent of its reserves. Both India and Australia had signed a civil nuclear agreement in 2014 to facilitate the supply of uranium to India.

The exports of uranium in India are banned as the country is not a part of the Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT). However, Australia has been a supporter of India‘s entry into the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group (NSG).

Yesterday, Sidhu unveiled the program for Australia Fest – a six-month celebration of Australian culture, involving over 75 events across 20 cities in India.

At the event, Sidhu launched the festival website and also introduced three Australia Fest Ambassadors, Australian cooking sensation Gary Mehigan, and renowned Australian author John Zubrzycki and well-known music composer and Australian alumnus Raghav Sachar.

Australia Fest will culminate on March 30, 2019. (ANI)

A Closer Look At The Sixth Seal (Revelation 6:12)

A Closer Look At The Sixth Seal (Rev 6:12)

A Look at the Tri-State’s Active Fault Line

Monday, March 14, 2011

By Bob Hennelly

The Ramapo Fault is the longest fault in the Northeast that occasionally makes local headlines when minor tremors cause rock the Tri-State region. It begins in Pennsylvania, crosses the Delaware River and continues through Hunterdon, Somerset, Morris, Passaic and Bergen counties before crossing the Hudson River near Indian Point nuclear facility.

In the past, it has generated occasional activity that generated a 2.6 magnitude quake in New Jersey’s Peakpack/Gladstone area and 3.0 magnitude quake in Mendham.

But the New Jersey-New York region is relatively seismically stable according to Dr. Dave Robinson, Professor of Geography at Rutgers. Although it does have activity.

“There is occasional seismic activity in New Jersey,” said Robinson. “There have been a few quakes locally that have been felt and done a little bit of damage over the time since colonial settlement — some chimneys knocked down in Manhattan with a quake back in the 18th century, but nothing of a significant magnitude.”

Robinson said the Ramapo has on occasion registered a measurable quake but has not caused damage: “The Ramapo fault is associated with geological activities back 200 million years ago, but it’s still a little creaky now and again,” he said.

“More recently, in the 1970s and early 1980s, earthquake risk along the Ramapo Fault received attention because of its proximity to Indian Point,” according to the New Jersey Geological Survey website.

Historically, critics of the Indian Point Nuclear facility in Westchester County, New York, did cite its proximity to the Ramapo fault line as a significant risk.

In 1884, according to the New Jersey Geological Survey website, the  Rampao Fault was blamed for a 5.5 quake that toppled chimneys in New York City and New Jersey that was felt from Maine to Virginia.

“Subsequent investigations have shown the 1884 Earthquake epicenter was actually located in Brooklyn, New York, at least 25 miles from the Ramapo Fault,” according to the New Jersey Geological Survey website.

Russia is Preparing to Wage Nuclear War

Russia’s Backfire Bomber Is Back (And Ready to Wage a Nuclear War or Kill Aircraft Carriers)

by Task and Purpose Brad Howard

The marque TU-22M3 ‘Backfire’ bomber that was comparatively a cheaper, shorter-range version of the United States’ B-1B Lancer, is finally rolling off the lot with the ‘M3M’ designation upgrades it needs to fight well into the 21st century.

Despite its occasional flashes of inspiration when it comes to military tech, Russia is still touting the same Cold War-era bomber fleet that threatened naval carrier task forces with the specter of cruise missile destruction throughout the 1980s.

But now, the marque TU-22M3 ‘Backfire’ bomber that was comparatively a cheaper, shorter-range version of the United States’ B-1B Lancer, is finally rolling off the lot with the ‘M3M’ designation upgrades it needs to fight well into the 21st century.

– TU-22M3M Backfire, already capable of  flying at over 45,000 feet  and up to Mach 1.4 with a range of 3,000 miles, is getting its legacy communication, weapons, and navigation systems  upgraded to match the TU-160M2 Backfire. The upgraded nav system will be primed to use the Russian version of GPS,  Glonass, which eliminates dependence on American satellites for both navigation and  guided weapons .

– The Tu-22M3M is now capable of launching carrier killing Kh-32 cruise missiles from  over 1000 km (or 620 miles) away , a major increase over its previous range of just 600 km with the Kh-22.

– The most significant weapons upgrade is also its scariest: The bomber is also now capable of carrying Kh-15 airborne ballistic missiles, enabling it to function as a nuclear strategic bomber, adding one more arrow to the Russian nuclear quiver.

– But wait, there’s more! In July a Tu-22M3 accompanied a MiG-31 toting  a hypersonic Kh-47M2 Kinzhal missile , hinting at a  future capability  for the Backfire bomber as a rival to Chinese and U.S. hypersonic aspirations. Finally, Aerospace Force Commander Viktor Bondarev told the Russian news service TASS that ‘the planes are being adapted for being furnished with modern Kh-32 precision cruise missiles and also with hypersonic missiles’.

The Backfire bomber has been a cornerstone of Russian close air support for the last three decades, with combat time over  Afghanistan in the 1980s Chechnya in the 1990s Georgia in 2008 , and, most recently, over the  skies of Syria  in support the Assad regime. The rollout of the TU-22M3M version of the airframe is clearly part of a concerted effort by the Russian military to modernize and upgrade their military forces after the 1990s.

The hawks in the Russian government are known as the  Silovik, politicians who were birthed from the security services of the Soviet Union, and afterward, the Russian Federation. These pols have been pining for modernization of their strategic military forces to keep pace with the United States since the dark ages of Russian military, also known as ‘the 1990s.’ With a hypersonic weapon capable Tu-22M3M, they may not be far off.

Mismanaging Pakistan’s Nuclear Bomb (Daniel 8:8)

Imran Khan, at the 2012 World Economic Forum. Photo by Remy Steinegger, World Economic Forum, swiss-image.ch/ .

Managing Pakistan’s Bomb: Learning on the job

By Pervez Hoodbhoy, Zia Mian, August 17, 2018

On Saturday, Imran Khan will be sworn in as the next prime minister of Pakistan. His has been a sudden and rapid rise to power; he first came into politics in the late 1990s with no experience and has never held any government office. In his first public address to the nation after winning the July election, with Pakistan’s economy near bankruptcy, Khan said, “The biggest challenge we are facing is the economic crisis.” While this may well be the most pressing issue, the biggest and most important challenge Imran Khan will confront as prime minister is something he did not mention at all in his speech—how to manage the Bomb. The lives and well-being of Pakistan’s 200 million citizens and countless millions in India and elsewhere depend on how well he deals with the doomsday machine Pakistan’s Army and nuclear complex have worked so hard to build.

To be fair, it is not clear that Imran Khan will have much choice regarding nuclear policy. For Pakistani politicians, the options largely come down to either support the Bomb, or keep quiet about it. Like other prime ministers before him, Imran Khan may go and have his picture taken with the missiles that will carry nuclear warheads and pose with the scientists and engineers that make them and the military units that plan and train to fire them.

Imran Khan’s two-decade-long political career overlaps with the creation of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal, but he has had very little to say about the Bomb. When he has spoken, it has been as a Bomb supporter. In 1998, as India and Pakistan tested their Bombs, Imran Khan told the BBC, “The test had to be done to tell India that Pakistan had a Bomb, because there was a lot of ambiguity on whether we had the Bomb. My party was clear that we had to tell India that we had a deterrent.” He claimed the Bomb as proof of Pakistan’s possibilities, telling the BBC that “[i]f it can have scientists that develop nuclear bombs then we can develop our own country.”

Imran Khan also has courted the support of Abdul Qadeer Khan (no relation), the man most closely identified in Pakistani minds with the country’s Bomb. This was after A.Q. Khan admitted publicly in 2004 to selling Iran, North Korea, and Libya the uranium enrichment centrifuge technology he had earlier stolen from European companies and copied for Pakistan and sharing nuclear weapon designs with other countries. He was quickly pardoned and placed under house arrest, but released in 2009.

This history suggests that Imran Khan may be likely to support the continued build-up of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal. It is estimated that the arsenal now is on the order of 150 nuclear weapons, with Pakistan being able soon to deliver these weapons from airplanes (either via bombs or cruise missiles), on land-based ballistic missiles and cruise missiles, and on cruise missiles launched from submarines.

Few knowledgeable observers now doubt that Pakistan’s Army helped bring Imran Khan victory in the 2018 elections by stifling other political parties and silencing key voices in the media. Given the debt he owes to those who made his election possible, it is unlikely he will now try to assert himself and push for some kind of democratic civilian control in nuclear matters and in foreign policy generally. More likely, the Army will expect Imran Khan’s government to be cheerleaders in support of its next military adventure. All the pieces are in place.

Military crises have occurred in the subcontinent with awful frequency in recent decades, despite the Bomb, and perhaps because of it. Pakistan and India have survived at least five since 1987, giving both sides misplaced confidence that they will survive the next, too. This, in turn, leads to a lessening of political restraints on the militaries of both countries and greater nuclear brinksmanship.

As Pakistan discovered during the 1999 Kargil crisis, the combination of the Army, the Bomb, and pliant politicians leads to big mistakes. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, the chosen political tool of the Army in those days, was led to believe by General Pervez Musharraf, the head of Pakistan’s Army, that he had a plan for the liberation of Kashmir. General Musharraf’s foray over the Line of Control—the effective border between India and Pakistan in the Kashmir region—at first took the Indians by surprise then slowed, stalled, and finally crashed. Indian air power and artillery began decimating Pakistani forces, leaving Pakistan with a stark choice: withdrawal, a wider war, or brandishing nuclear weapons.

The world watched and judged. Pakistan was deemed the aggressor. The belief that China would bail out Pakistan was proven false. Musharraf and Sharif each visited China seeking support; both returned empty handed. Then, on July 3, 1999, Sharif made a desperate, uninvited dash to Washington for help. He eventually was willing to challenge the wisdom of his generals, but only when the situation had become desperate and nuclear war appeared to be terrifyingly close—and when the Americans were on his side.

Strobe Talbott, then US deputy secretary of state, records that “on the eve of Sharif’s arrival, we learned that Pakistan might be preparing its nuclear forces for deployment. There was, among those of us preparing for the meeting, a sense of vast and nearly unprecedented peril.” Faced with a situation where he did not know what his own army was up to, a shocked and subdued Sharif signed the withdrawal document. The prime minister was overthrown three months later in a military coup led by Gen. Pervez Musharraf.

Not long afterwards, Islamist militants backed by Pakistan attacked India’s Parliament, triggering massive military deployments by both countries and an intense military crisis that lasted until October 2002. In July 2006 and again in November 2008, Islamist militants believed to be linked to Pakistan attacked the Indian city of Mumbai, killing and wounding hundreds of people and again raising the prospect of a military response. Since then, the focus of conflict has shifted back to the Line of Control dividing Kashmir. India and Pakistan blame each other for hundreds of violations of the ceasefire agreed in 2003, with hundreds of military and civilian casualties and India citing hundreds of attempts each year by militants to cross over from Pakistan.

In Indian-occupied Kashmir demands for greater autonomy and independence have met with repression, which has fueled Kashmiri resistance. Human rights violations have become chronic. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights reported in 2018 that in the past two years “Indian security forces used excessive force that led to unlawful killings and a very high number of injuries” while militant groups were held responsible for “a wide range of human rights abuses, including kidnappings and killings of civilians and sexual violence.” Some of the militant groups fighting in Kashmir are based in Pakistan and backed by the Army.

Peace does not seem to be in the cards. The Pakistan Army’s low-cost option is to keep the pot boiling in Kashmir and elsewhere in India, but not to let it boil over. It has secretly sponsored Islamist proxies to do its dirty work, and their footprint can be seen across Pakistan. Some Islamist groups have been supported to form political parties and successfully run candidates for elections. It is unlikely that Imran Khan will choose to move against these actors or rein them in; he has long demonstrated sympathy for the Taliban and other extremists. Any such action would be unwelcome to the Army and decried as a betrayal by his party base.

Whether triggered by Army action in Kashmir or by militant attacks, what happens if the next crisis comes on Imran Khan’s watch? To whom will he look for outside assistance, and will those allies come to his aid? Will he run to Washington, ala Nawaz Sharif? Imran Khan built his political base initially on harsh anti-American rhetoric. For a while he was dubbed “Taliban Khan” for his vehement condemnation of drone strikes against Islamist militants. Still, the United States has forgiven worse and will likely talk to him in a crisis. The risk of escalation to nuclear war in South Asia is too grave a concern to be ignored.

What has changed since Kargil? All semblance of trust between Pakistan and the United States is gone. The United States after the 9/11 attacks went to war in Afghanistan, and found that despite receiving vast amounts of US aid, Pakistan continued to back the Taliban. In 2018, this led to a cutoff in US security aid to Pakistan. But the lack of trust works both ways; many in Pakistan, including in the Army, see the United States as waiting to pounce upon and seize Pakistan’s nuclear weapons at the first opportunity.

Will Imran Khan then turn to China for support? His speech to the nation after the election suggests such a tendency, but before Pakistani military leaders conceive and implement another Kargil,  they need to understand that China is not the new global superpower that has replaced the United States. A complex, four-way dynamic has emerged among India, Pakistan, China, and the United States. It is one that does not work in Pakistan’s favor.

China competes strategically with the United States and India, but it also trades heavily with both. There is no war talk and no visceral animosity among the members of this China-US-India triad. Pakistan touts China as an all-weather friend and expects protection, but the Kargil episode showed that these expectations were misplaced. India’s hawkish strategic elite sees Pakistan now as a Chinese proxy in the event of a Pak-India war, and India’s Army chief talks of fighting a two-front war. But in another crisis, China again may prove reticent to take Pakistan’s side and prefer to support de-escalation and an end to the crisis as quickly as possible.

Even the finest diplomacy may not work in the midst of a storm strong enough to knock over the pieces on the south Asian nuclear chessboard. With an emboldened army in Pakistan sooner or later seeking once again to push India to the brink—this time determined to escalate rather than back down if things go badly—staving off nuclear warfare on the subcontinent may be a race against time. Imran Khan needs to understand that the best way to handle a nuclear crisis is not to provoke one or try and use such a crisis for political advantage. Of course, an informed and organized public, able to keep political and military leaders in check and restrain them from brandishing nuclear weapons, would constitute a more enduring check on nuclear risk-taking. In Pakistan, however—with political leaders willing to let the military have effective control of key policies and stifle public discourse—this kind of active democracy seems a distant hope.

The Antichrist: Iraq’s militia leader turned champion of poor

Muqtada al-Sadr: Iraq’s militia leader turned champion of poor

Shia leader’s appeal to the disenfranchised and the low voter turnout factored into his alliance’s surprise victory.

by Arwa Ibrahim

17 May 2018

Shia leader Muqtada al-Sadr surprised the world when his Sairoon Alliance captured more parliamentary seats than any other party or alliance in Iraq’s parliamentary elections, in a remarkable comeback after being sidelined for years by Iranian-backed rivals.

Once known as a staunch anti-American militia leader, al-Sadr has rebranded himself in recent years as a patriotic champion of the poor and an anti-corruption firebrand.

This rebranding, along with the low voter turnout of only 44.52 percent, were, according to analysts, the main factors that enabled Sairoon – an alliance between the Sadrist Movement and Iraq’s Communist Party – to win six of Iraq’s 18 provinces, including Baghdad.

Although final results are yet to be released, most of the country’s politicians have accepted the tally so far, which has seen Sairoon win more than 1.3 million votes, winning 54 out of 329 parliament seats. Without an outright majority, al-Sadr will still need to build an alliance with other blocs to form the new government.

Unlike Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi – an ally of both the United States and Iran – al-Sadr’s positioning against dominant pro-Iran Shia blocs and away from the US is likely to rock established interests in Iraq.

‘Man of the poor’

By projecting himself as an Iraqi nationalist and mixing his resistance to US presence in the early 2000s with Shia religiosity – as the son of the late Grand Ayatollah Mohammad Sadeq al-Sadr, a highly regarded scholar throughout the Shia Muslim world – al-Sadr became a figurehead for many of Iraq’s poor Shia Muslims.

Since 2003, his followers have provided healthcare services, food and clean water across many parts of Iraq’s poor suburbs and especially in Sadr City, a district of Baghdad named after his father. Al-Sadr’s militia has since acted in Sadr City almost unhindered by US and Iraqi forces to influence local councils and government. This established his zealous following among the young, poor and dispossessed.

Similarly, Sairoon’s 2018 election campaign used anti-corruption rhetoric and focused on cutting across sectarian platforms, appealing to frustrated Iraqis who complained about their political elite’s systematic patronage, bad governance and corruption.

Iraq has been ranked among the world’s most corrupt countries, with high unemployment, poverty and weak public institutions.

“For a couple of years, Sadr has been arguing against the level of corruption in the government,” which, according to Talha Abdulrazaq, an Iraq expert at the University of Exeter’s Strategy and Security Institute, attracted “the predominant demographic of Shia, working-class neighbourhoods” in the six provinces that voted for Sairoon.

While top politicians in suits voted in Baghdad’s Green Zone on May 12, al-Sadr cast his ballot at a school in a poor district of Najaf, a hub for Iraq’s Shia communities. Footage of him dressed in his trademark turban and robe reinforced his image as a maverick who appeals to the disenfranchised.

According to Abdulrazaq, al-Sadr’s alliance with Iraq’s Communist Party also worked in his favour.

“The communists are well organised on a grassroots level which allowed the bloc to mobilise,” said Abdulrazaq, highlighting the long history of partnership between Iraq’s Shia and communist groups. According to him, many of the communist movements’ recruits have been Shia Arabs.

Fanar al-Haddad, a senior research fellow at the Middle East Institute of the National University of Singapore, agreed: “Sadr has always appealed to the Shia working class and his alliance with the communists chimed into the image of a reformer and someone who wants to bring in new blood.”

Voters in Baghdad complained that most candidates running were part of the same elite. They told Al Jazeera that they were in search for “new faces and wanted change”.

In contrast to other blocs, Sairoon Alliance offered the voters new candidates, including the likes of Muntadhar al-Zaidi – a journalist famed for hurling a shoe at former US President George W Bush during his visit to Baghdad in 2008.

Iraqi Shia leader Muqtada al-Sadr cast his vote for the parliamentary election at a polling station in Najaf [Reuters]

Low voter turnout

In addition to his grassroots appeal, the low voter turnout, which was 15 percent less than in 2014, worked in al-Sadr’s favour, according to analysts.

“While Sadr has a support base that is fairly solid and inelastic – unlike other party leaders, the result is equally a function of the low turnout for his rivals,” said al-Hadad.

The majority of Iraqis did not vote, partly due to an online boycott campaign spearheaded by activists.

Meanwhile, with millions of predominantly Sunni internally displaced persons (IDPs) unable or uninterested to vote, “the results were skewed in Sadr’s favour”, said Abudlrazaq, who explained that the millions of IDPs in urgent need of basic assistance “have had more important things to think about than voting”.

With Iraq having more than 2 million people displaced since 2014 and living in IDP camps, Sunni leaders demanded that the elections be postponed until these communities could return to their homes. Their appeals were not addressed.

Although the government set up 166 polling stations in 70 camps for internally displaced persons, IDP voters reported facing difficulties, which left few able to cast their ballots.

Shifting alliances

Al-Sadr did not stand as a candidate himself, so he will not head the new government, although his alliance will have a big say in the composition of the as-yet unclear future government

Domestically, al-Sadr’s eyes seem to be set on forging alliances with a variety of blocs to fight corruption and allow for an independent, non-sectarian government of technocrats, according to a Tuesday address made by his spokesman, Saleh al-Obeidi.

But he appears to wish to stay away from two groups heavily aligned with Iran, the former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s State of Law Coalition and Hadi al-Ameri’s Fateh Coalition.

Al-Sadr posted a tweet on Monday expressing a willingness to work with a number of parties – among those he named were the Shia-aligned al-Hikma bloc, the Sunni al-Wataniya bloc, and newly established Kurdish parties.

For its part, Iran publicly stated it would not allow his bloc to govern, which has led many observers to believe that Tehran is likely to try and isolate or fragment al-Sadr’s power.

“Iran will try to work on the fact that Sadr’s coalition includes communists which is a weakness if Iran tempts them away from the alliance, reducing his [al-Sadr’s alliance] majority,” said Abdulrazaq.

For other analysts, however, al-Sadr’s victory may not upset Iranian influence over Baghdad as much as it will the US’ influence.

Unlike Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, an ally of Washington and Tehran, Muqtada al-Sadr is an opponent of both countries. [AFP]

According to Mahan Abedin, an expert on Iranian politics: “On balance, Tehran is not displeased [with the results]. It wanted Abadi – who Iran perceives as America’s man – weakened, and they got that.”

Unlike al-Abadi, an ally of Washington and Tehran, al-Sadr is an opponent of both countries, which have wielded influence in Iraq since a US-led invasion toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003 and thrust the Shia majority into power.

“Also, a corollary is the relative rehabilitation of [former Prime Minister] Nouri al-Maliki who is now back in the fold,” added Abedin.

Al-Maliki, who led Iraq between 2006 and 2014 and headed the State of Law Coalition for the 2018 election, was a staunch ally of Iran. For years, the Iraqi army and police under al-Maliki acted as a sectarian militia against the country’s Sunni minority.

“Another key Iranian objective is to defeat or undermine US plans. Both Sadr and Fateh [a pro-Iran coalition led by Hadi al-Ameri and which came in second in the election] are useful for that.

“These elections have [therefore] reinforced the dominion of the Shia state in Iraq, [so] in terms of influence and operations, Iran, as always, is the key power broker,” explained Abedin.

But for the US, which sent US presidential envoy Brett McGurk to Erbil following the vote, the situation might be a little more tricky.

Al-Sadr has been a staunch opponent of the US. He spearheaded a number of political movements in Iraq that directed attacks on US troops in the wake of the 2003 Iraq invasion.

He set up the Mahdi Army, which posed such a threat to US forces that they were instructed to kill or capture him.

Although US Secretary of Defense James Mattis said in an interview on Tuesday that the US would respect and “stand with the Iraqi people’s decisions”, the US had hoped al-Abadi would win another term in office.

US acceptance of the results, according to al-Haddad, therefore depends on the kind of government that will be formed.

 

“It [al-Sadr’s victory] is not the best scenario for the US. The US will push for Abadi’s premiership, and if Sairoon form a coalition with Abadi’s Nasr Coalition and Abadi heads the next government, that would work well for the US.”

Iran’s Deadly Nuclear Deal with Obama

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei speaks at the Hussayniyeh of Imam Khomeini in Tehran, Iran, August 13, 2018.Official Khamenei website/Handout via REUTERS

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has admitted he made a mistake in allowing the country’s foreign minister to speak to his U.S. counterpart during negotiations that led to a 2015 international nuclear agreement.

International sanctions on Iran were lifted when the pact with world powers came into force in 2016, but the expected level of foreign investment to help revive the economy has never materialized. Then this May President Donald Trump pulled out of the agreement and is now reimposing U.S. sanctions in stages.

Khamenei, who rarely admits in public to making errors, said he had done just that over the nuclear talks. “With the issue of the nuclear negotiations, I made a mistake in permitting our foreign minister to speak with them. It was a loss for us,” he said.

The comments made by Khamenei, the highest authority in the country, were tweeted on Wednesday by the Khat-e Hezbollah newspaper, a weekly affiliated with his official website.

Khamenei made the remarks on Monday, but the newspaper said it was now quoting them due to inaccurate accounts published previously by other media.

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif negotiated the deal with counterparts from six powers, including then U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. Tehran undertook to curb its nuclear program in return for relief from the international sanctions which have been throttling its economy.

New U.S. sanctions against Iran took effect last week, and Trump said companies doing business with the country will be barred from the United States. Washington had said Tehran’s only chance of avoiding the sanctions would be to accept an offer by Trump to negotiate a tougher nuclear deal.

Iranian officials, from Khamenei down, have rejected the offer. Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri said on Wednesday that the United States is trying to make Tehran surrender through the imposition of sanctions.

Iranian Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri speaks during a news conference in Najaf, south of Baghdad, February 18, 2015. Alaa Al-Marjani/REUTERS

“The first priority for all of us under a sanctions situation is to work toward managing the country in a way that brings the least amount of damage to people’s lives,” Fars News quoted Jahangiri as saying. “America is trying by applying various pressures on our society to force us to retreat and surrender.”

The new sanctions targeted Iranian purchases of U.S. dollars, metals trading, coal, industrial software and its auto sector, though the toughest measures targeting oil exports do not take effect for four more months.

Few U.S. companies do much business in Iran so the impact of sanctions mainly stems from Washington’s ability to block European and Asian firms from trading there.

President Hassan Rouhani made similar comments to Jahangiri, although he did not specifically refer to the United States. “We will not let the enemy bring us to our knees,” Rouhani said, according to state TV.

“America itself took actions which destroyed the conditions for negotiation,” Rouhani also said, according to the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA). “There were conditions for negotiation and we were negotiating. They destroyed the bridge themselves,” he said. “If you’re telling the truth then come now and build the bridge again.”

The Iranian economy is beset by high unemployment and a rial currency which has lost half its value since April. The reimposition of sanctions could also make the economic situation worse.

Rouhani said the economy is the biggest problem facing the country.

Thousands of Iranians have protested in recent weeks against sharp price rises of some food items, a lack of jobs and state corruption. The protests over the cost of living have often turned into anti-government rallies.