Among the many reasons for America's allies to hope Donald Trump's wings would be clipped in the mid-term congressional elections yesterday are the trade sanctions he has imposed on Iran.

The sanctions his Administration imposed on Monday apply not only to Iran but to any company doing business with Iran no matter where it may be domiciled unless its country has been granted an exemption for certain products by the US. This is an outrageous use of US economic power.

Trump clearly has no regard for the rights of countries that disagreed with his unilateral decision to renege on the nuclear agreement with Iran, and even less regard for the rights of business in those countries. If they continue to trade with Iran they will be blocked from the US. Forced to choose, most will quit Iran for the much larger US market.


Among the countries affected are those that negotiated the Iran deal alongside the US three years ago: Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany. Some of them have been doing their utmost to maintain the agreement with Iran since Trump announced in May he would walk away from it. The EU is looking for ways to compensate European firms that give up American business.

Trump has set back years of progress within Iran where hard-liners had lost power after the deal was done and the economy was recovering. Now the anti-American rhetoric is back on the streets of Tehran, the government can blame the US for all the deprivations its people face, and it is now all too likely Iran will resume its programme to develop nuclear weapons.

The sanctions name 700 Iranian individuals, companies and organisations, including oil producers, banks and shipping companies though not all of them. Some prominent banks and companies are not on the list.

He has also exempted some big oil customers, China, India and Turkey so as not to send world oil prices even higher. The exemptions mean Trump has additional weapons in reserve if he needs them. That has been his modus operandi with tariffs against China.

Trump believes that if he applies enough pressure Iran will negotiate a new nuclear deal with him, this time agreeing to cease supporting Shia militant forces such as Hezbollah in Syria and Houthi in Yemen.

Hezbollah, based in Lebanon, has been a menace to Israel but hardly represents a greater threat to that country than a nuclear armed Iran. The Houthi insurgency in Yemen is mainly of concern to Saudi Arabia, which ought to be no friend of a US President after its murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi last month.

Quite why Trump has sabotaged a multi-national nuclear containment treaty with Iran for these purposes is not apparent. Many suspect he has done it for no better reason than the deal was done by President Obama and Trump had opposed it, as did Republicans in Congress.

The US House of Representatives has little say in foreign policy but if its voters yesterday can put a check on this President's power, many outside America will be relieved.