On November 5, the US President imposed economic and trade sanctions on Iran, targeting its lucrative oil, financial and shipping sectors. The measures are part of a wider effort from Donald Trump to curb Iran’s missile and nuclear programmes, while destroying its influence in the Middle East, particularly its support for proxies in Syria, Yemen and Lebanon. The US President’s national security adviser John Bolton has since issued a chilling new threat to Iran, warning Tehran faces more crippling punishments, while US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned Iran its economy will “crumble” if it doesn’t comply.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has vowed to break the sanctions by continuing to sell oil, despite the “economic war” Washington is waging on it.
But speaking exclusively to Express.co.uk, political and global affairs experts warned Mr Trump he is bordering on massively escalating what is already a bitter conflict with the Middle East.
Dr Kostas Maronitis, a lecturer in politics and international relations at Leeds Trinity University, said: “It is early to argue if these sanctions can lead to World War 3.
“However, what is certain is the aspiration of the US administration to create a cold war climate in the Middle East.
“The sanctions should not be understood in limited economic terms but rather as a wider attempt to build a military coalition against Iran comprised of Israel and Saudi Arabia.”
Speaking exclusively to Express.co.uk, Shahrzad Atai, head of Middle East Desk at Child & Child, Globalaw, claimed a “world war” has already begun, but will only be heightened by the imposition of the new sanctions.
She said: “The Middle East is already in the grips of a crippling war, with Saudi bombing Yemen, Isis at war in Iraq, Syria and the south of Turkey, and four Gulf countries turning their back on Qatar.
“The fact that President Trump recently sold $110 billion of arms to the Saudi government showcases global involvement in this conflict.
“So depending on your definition of a “world war”, we already have one. The sanctions will only serve to exacerbate an existing conflict.”
Since Mr Trump withdrew the USA from a nuclear deal in May to curb Iran’s nuclear activities in return for lifting economic sanctions, the Iranian rial has plunged in value by more than 70 percent against the dollar, prompting fears of a huge financial crisis.
The huge dwindling oil revenues could have a huge impact on the economy, potentially destroying it completely.
Dr Maronitis said: “Trump’s sanctions could potentially bankrupt the Iranian economy and prevent the Iranian administration from providing basic public services to Iranian citizens.”
Ms Atai admits Iran will continue to suffer financially, but it has proven so far it can survive, including nearly eight years of war with Iraq when it didn’t receive any support from the international community.
She doubts Iran’s economy will collapse completely, especially as eight countries, including Italy, China, Japan, and India, have been made exempt from the sanctions by the US so that they can continue to purchase crude oil from Iran.
But Dr Maronitis claimed Mr Trump’s sanctions could actually end up backfiring on him, who risks isolating the US from the rest of the world and being stuck with a label of being an unreliable political partner and a destabilising force in the Middle East.
Dr Maronitis said: “Trump’s foreign policy on Iran raises more questions than it could possibly answer.
“The complete economic isolation of Iran cannot come to fruition because the major EU member states want to craft a new set of political and economic relations with Iran, which do not involve the US.
“If the EU is successful in becoming Iran’s major western oil partner and a collaborative watchdog concerning nuclear development, the US will be increasingly isolated both politically and economically.”
“Trump’s unilateralism and isolationism will eventually contribute to the perception of the US as an unreliable political partner and a destabilising force in the Middle East.”
He also warned Mr Trump he also risks triggering an economic war with furious global superpowers.
Dr Maronitis added: “The current sanctions on Iran is a massive risk that could easily backfire against the US interests. Trump has neither the political space nor the economic might to impose more sanctions on Iran.
“If he does, he risks an economic war with the big global economies namely China, India, Japan and the EU as well as further destabilising the region.”