U.S. navy on alert as Iran threatens to block Gulf oil route

President Donald J. Trump signs a National Security Presidential Memorandum as he announces the withdrawal of the United States from the Iran nuclear deal

In May, US President Donald Trump pulled out of the deal under which sanctions on Iran were lifted in return for curbs to its nuclear program.

Iran's remaining partners in the JCPOA vowed on Friday to keep the energy exporter plugged into the global economy.

But Washington has also warned European allies that they face possible penalties if they violate USA sanctions, which Washington says are aimed at reducing Iranian oil exports to "zero" - a level that would deprive Iran's economy of its principal source of revenue and economic growth.

In the joint statement, they reconfirmed their commitment to the deal and its "economic dividends" for Iran, which has suffered worsening financial turbulence since Trump abandoned the accord.

The Iran nuclear deal looked in doubt on Friday as European powers failed to convince Tehran that they would be able to fully compensate for economic losses caused by the US's exit.

European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini (C-2ndL); Iranian Minister of Foreign Affairs Mohammad Javad Zarif (C-3rdL); Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (2ndR); France's Foreign Minister Jean- Yves Le Drian (3rdL), Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi (6thL); Germany Foreign Minister Heiko Maas (L) take part in a Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) ministerial meeting on the Iran nuclear deal on July 6, 2018 in Vienna, Austria.

They said they remained committed to the 2015 accord and to building up economic relations with Iran, including "the continuation of Iran's export of oil and gas" and other energy products.

"Unfortunately, the proposed package lacked operational solution and specific method for cooperation, and featured just a set of general commitments like the previous statements by the European Union".

Trump said he was unilaterally pulling out of the deal negotiated by his predecessor because he felt it wasn't strong enough and didn't cover other issues of concern to the USA and its allies, such as Iran's military influence in the Middle East and a ballistic missile program. "We expect a clear action plan from Europe with a timetable so it can compensate for the USA exit from the deal".

Iranians have complained that the hoped-for rise in foreign investment and trade after the deal has not materialised.

As The Guardian notes, the threats "will bring back memories of the latter years of the 1980s Iran-Iraq War, when USA forces attacked Iranian territorial waters after a United States ship struck an Iranian mine".

In calls Thursday with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said since the US withdrawal "Iran has been dealing with economic issues and problems in banking relations and oil" and that foreign companies were "skeptical" about continuing their business, Iran's semi-official Mehr news agency reported.

Iran, which strongly denies ever seeking to build a nuclear bomb, has warned it could resume uranium enrichment for civilian purposes if the deal collapses. He added that the commission needs to develop ways keep commercial and economic ties between Iran and other parties to the agreement, which "would not depend on the United States whims".

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