On Friday, US President Joe Biden extended the state of emergency with respect to Iran, put in place by US President Jimmy Carter in 1979 during Iran's Islamic Revolution.
Iran's actions and policies “continue to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States," Biden said in a Friday notice, accusing Tehran of "proliferation and development of missiles and other asymmetric and conventional weapons capabilities," maintaining a “network and campaign of regional aggression,” supporting “terrorist groups" and for the "malign activities of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.”
According to a separate Friday letter sent to Senate President Kamala Harris and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Biden technically extended a 1995 emergency declaration, which prohibited investment in Iranian oil companies or in Iran's petroleum deposits. However, such a state of emergency has existed since 1979, when the Iranian Revolution overthrew Mohammed Reza Shah, the pro-Western monarch whose rule the US and UK had secured against a populist movement led by Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadeq 26 years earlier.
"The actions and policies of the Government of Iran continue to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States," the notice states. It enables the seizure of Iranian government assets and the imposition of economic sanctions against the Iranian economy.
The move comes amid an ongoing crisis over the United States' possible return to the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), an eight-party deal in which Iran agreed to strict limits on its uranium refining in exchange for the lowering of international sanctions against its economy. In 2018, the US unilaterally pulled out, with then-US President Donald Trump claiming Iran had violated the deal - something no other party to the deal agreed with and did not follow Trump's cutting off of trade and return of sanctions.
In response, Iran began reducing its commitments to the deal, increasing the quality and quantity of uranium it refines and limiting the ability of International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors to perform surprise inspections. After Biden took office in January, he signaled a willingness to return to the deal, but now the two nations have reached an impasse as each insists the other make the first move.
It also comes in the wake of a US airstrike on a military depot in eastern Syria last month that US intelligence claimed was operated by Kata'ib Hezbollah and Kata'ib Sayyid al Shuhada. The militias are part of Iraq's Popular Mobilization Forces, a collection of militias that formed the backbone of Iraq and Iran's fight against Daesh, but which Washington has claimed now operate as "Iranian proxies."
The airstrike was in response to a rocket attack in Erbil that killed an American civilian contractor and injured several other people.