A super-power has yet again reneged on its earlier commitment and is flexing its muscle to show that it can get away with unilaterally disavowing a mutual and collective decision. Not only that the US discarded agreement with Iran but it has also decided to reinstate all US sanctions on Iran removed under the 2015 nuclear deal. Trump’s White House gleefully announced that this is “the toughest sanctions regime ever imposed on Iran” and targeted Iran’s energy, shipping and banking sectors. They are the second lot of sanctions re-imposed by President Trump since May.
President Trump had earlier withdrew from the Iranian nuclear deal calling it “defective at its core” despite the exhaustive negotiations after which it was agreed. He argued that the terms of the deal are unacceptable and it has not stopped Iran from developing a ballistic missile programme and intervening in neighbouring countries including Syria and Yemen.
He withdrew from the deal in May and started harping on sanctions theme. The negotiations were undertaken under a powerful international watch and France, Britain, Russia, Germany and China were part of the process. The agreement saw Iran limit its controversial nuclear activities in exchange for sanctions relief. Barack Obama, the then US president, had argued the deal would prevent Iran from developing nuclear arms.
Iran is defiant in the face of sanctions and appears
unconcerned about their affects. Iran thinks that Trump has waged a psychological warfare and wants to cow down Iran
The rest of the countries that were party to the Iranian deal have stuck to it and have stated that they will set up a new payment system to maintain business with Iran and bypass US sanctions. They have also showed apprehension about the dubious grounds America has cited to withdraw from the deal. They see no apparent reason for hastily shunning an important breakthrough that was considered a way-forward for assuring international peace. EU states have particularly emphasised that they will protect EU firms doing legitimate business with Iran.
President Trump had shown his strong intentions of going against the nuclear deal and had not wasted a chance to discredit it. From the beginning he insisted that sanctions against Iran were on the way and announced them through a tweet saying: “Sanctions are coming” and added a line from a TV series motto “Winter is coming”. The impression conveyed was of an irresponsible puerile character who has somehow transcended high pedestal of decisive office.
US secretary of state Mike Pompeo said the sanctions were basically aimed at fundamentally altering the behaviour of Iran. He set out 12 demands that Iran must meet in order to have the sanctions lifted. These include ending support for terrorism and military intervention in Syria, as well as completely halting nuclear and ballistic missile development.
America has been gradually re-imposing sanctions since it unilaterally withdrew from the agreement but the worrying aspect this time is that this move is emphatic from the point of view that it targets the core sectors of Iran’s economy. Iranian economy is already reeling from the earlier sanctions and is also suffering from falling oil prices. The US sanctions will come back into force on 5 November, covering shipping, shipbuilding, finance and energy. The names of more than 700 individuals, entities, vessels and aircraft will be put on the sanctions list including major banks, oil exporters and shipping companies.
Iran is defiant in the face of sanctions and appears unconcerned about their affects. Iran thinks that Trump has waged a psychological warfare and wants to cow down Iran. Iran is quite convinced about the potency of the nuclear deal and feels encouraged by the support of its other signatories. It expects that so-called punitive measures have lost their teeth and they will create no great difference in the prevailing circumstances.
The Iranian stance has a ring of authenticity about the matter as eight countries will not be penalised by the US for continuing to import Iranian oil. The sanctions will penalise other countries which do business with Iran. The US secretary of state clarified that some countries could not halt imports of Iranian oil immediately and they had been granted waivers on condition that they reduced them and eventually ended them entirely.
Iran is confident about the support it has received from other signatories as Germany, France and Britain regretted American decision and reiterated that they are determined to protect European economic operators engaged in legitimate business with Iran, in accordance with EU law and with UN Security Council resolution 2231.
It is pointed out that over the last few months Trump administration pushed the goal of getting Iranian oil exports as close to zero as possible. But the balance between supply and demand in the oil market is fairly tight, so it has to calibrate accordingly. America is also conscious that if it succeeds in stopping Iranian oil from the market it will spike the prices and would indirectly benefit Iran and would caused widespread anger in America. To preclude the possibility America is trying to increase its reserves and is doing so through Saudi Arabia.
It has also taken preventive measures by allowing 8 countries to continue imports of Iranian oil and it appears that China and India would be included in exempted countries. American sanctions have played a large part in depriving Iran economically but this time round it appears that its supporters have a strong case to support Iran’s moderate policies. It also appears that isolating Iran through physical and economic measures may not be favourable result for America in the longer term.
Dr. Fahd Ali is a medical practitioner in the US and is very active socially