President Donald Trump. Image courtesy Reuters

The United States on Monday unleashed its “toughest ever” sanctions against Iran, a move that has already sparked mass protests in the oil-rich nation.

The Trump administration reinstated all sanctions removed under the 2015 nuclear deal, targeting both Iran and states that trade with it.

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They will hit oil exports, shipping and banks – all core parts of the economy.

Trump called the sanctions, “very strong”, saying: “We’ll see what happens with Iran, but they’re not doing very well, I can tell you.”

Washington re-imposed the sanctions after Trump in May pulled out of a 2015 accord aimed at curbing Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

Washington also says it wants to stop what it calls Tehran’s “malign” activities including cyber attacks, ballistic missile tests, and support for violent extremist groups and militias in the Middle East.

“We are working diligently to make sure we support the Iranian people and that we direct our activity towards ensuring that the Islamic Republic of Iran’s malign behaviour is changed.

“That’s the goal, that’s the mission, and that’s what we will achieve on behalf of the president,” US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, told Fox News on Sunday