TRUMP’S IRAN SANC­TIONS: OLD GEOPOL­I­TICS RE­TURN WITH A VENGEANCE

Pres­i­dent Trump, who has been pay­ing off debts to Is­rael and Saudi Ara­bia for their sup­port of his Mid­dle East poli­cies since he took of­fice, has now un­leashed the tough­est sanc­tions ever on Iran and brought the old geopol­i­tics back

Daily Sabah (Turkey) - - Front Page - MERVE ŞEBNEM ORUÇ

PRES­I­DENT Don­ald Trump, who has been pay­ing the U.S.’ debt to Is­rael and Saudi Ara­bia for their sup­port of its Mid­dle East poli­cies since he took of­fice, has un­leashed tough sanc­tions on Iran

The U.S. first im­posed sanc­tions on Iran in Novem­ber 1979 af­ter Ira­nian stu­dents stormed the U.S. Em­bassy and took diplo­mats hostage. I re­mem­ber that in 1995 the Bill Clin­ton ad­min­is­tra­tion is­sued ex­ec­u­tive or­ders pre­vent­ing U.S. com­pa­nies from in­vest­ing in the Ira­nian en­ergy sec­tor and banned U.S. trade with and in­vest­ment within Iran. The U.S. Congress passed a law next year re­quir­ing the ad­min­is­tra­tion im­pose sanc­tions on for­eign com­pa­nies in­vest­ing more than $20 mil­lion a year in Iran’s en­ergy sec­tor.

The U.N. Se­cu­rity Coun­cil’s sanc­tions on Iran start­ing in 2006 only in­cluded trade in nu­clear-re­lated ma­te­ri­als and tech­nol­ogy and freez­ing the as­sets of in­di­vid­u­als and com­pa­nies in­volved with nu­clear ac­tiv­i­ties. But, dur­ing the Ge­orge W. Bush term, the U.S. im­posed the tough­est sanc­tions uni­lat­er­ally against Iran since it first im­posed them al­most 30 years ago, for “sup­port­ing ter­ror­ists.” Those sanc­tions cut more than 20 or­ga­ni­za­tions as­so­ci­ated to Iran’s Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Guard Corps from the U.S. fi­nan­cial sys­tem.

Af­ter Barack Obama took of­fice as pres­i­dent in Jan­uary 2009, the U.S. con­tin­ued to im­pose new sanc­tions on Iran. In the sum­mer of 2010, Congress im­posed ad­di­tional uni­lat­eral sanc­tions tar­get­ing Iran’s en­ergy and bank­ing sec­tors. Also, penal­ties are brought for the com­pa­nies that sup­ply Iran with re­fined petroleum prod­ucts worth over a cer­tain amount. Is­rael was quite sat­is­fied with the U.S.’ fur­ther pres­sure on Iran, and Saudi Ara­bia, the big­gest ri­val of Iran in the re­gion, was qui­etly cel­e­brat­ing with them.

For the U.N. the is­sue has al­ways been about Iran’s ura­nium en­rich­ment, how­ever, from the point of the U.S., it was not only that; Iran’s nu­clear de­vel­op­ment pro­gram was just a tool to le­git­imize its pres­sure on Iran. In the mean­time, Is­rael, which is widely be­lieved to have been the sixth coun­try in the world to de­velop nu­clear weapons but has never ad­mit­ted that, was not even asked to let in in­ter­na­tional nu­clear in­spec­tors.

In 2010, Brazil and Turkey took a bold ini­tia­tive and bro­kered a deal with Iran over its nu­clear pro­gram which may have averted a global cri­sis then. It was a highly pos­i­tive de­vel­op­ment for ev­ery­body – ex­cept for those in Wash­ing­ton and Tel Aviv. Not im­me­di­ately, but in time, both Brazil and Turkey were go­ing to pay the price for such a move. At the same time, the U.S. black­listed more Ira­nian banks for trans­ac­tions with pre­vi­ously banned in­sti­tu­tions. While the U.S. me­dia sys­tem­at­i­cally de­mo­nized for­mer Ira­nian pres­i­dent Mahmoud Ah- madine­jad, Obama re­peat­edly threat­ened Iran with war as well.

Fol­low­ing the foot­steps of the U.S., the EU also pro­hib­ited the cre­ation of joint ven­tures with en­ter­prises in Iran en­gaged in oil and nat­u­ral gas in­dus­tries. While trade of equip­ment and tech­nol­ogy used for nat­u­ral gas pro­duc­tion was banned, the im­port and ex­port of arms were also pro­hib­ited. In 2011, the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion turned U.S. pres­sure on Iran into a joint ef­fort, and the U.S., the U.K. and Canada de­clared bi­lat­eral sanc­tions. As Iran’s econ­omy has been dom­i­nated by oil and gas ex­ports, which have ac­counted for more than 80 per­cent of ex­port earn­ings, the U.S. was hit­ting be­low the belt again and again. It was not only about the regime; the Ira­nian peo­ple were re­ally suf­fer­ing, and no one in the West cared about them.

In 2012, the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion dealt a death­blow to Iran with the sup­port of the EU. Start­ing with im­pos­ing sanc­tions on Iran’s cen­tral bank, and fur­ther iso­lat­ing Iran from the rest of the world, on June 2012, it banned the world’s banks from com­plet­ing oil trans­ac­tions with Iran, ex­empt­ing just eight coun­tries in­clud­ing Turkey from eco­nomic sanc­tions in re­turn for their cut­ting im­ports of Ira­nian oil. The EU also banned Ira­nian oil ex­ports. As a re­sult, Iran’s cur­rency fell to a new record low against the U.S. dol­lar, los­ing about 80 per cent of its value com­pared to the pre­vi­ous year.

While the sanc­tions on Iran were tight­ened day by day, the Syr­ian civil war in the re­gion was also wors­en­ing. Iran-backed mili­tias were al­ready on the ground fight­ing for the As­sad regime, and Obama was threat­en­ing the As­sad regime ev­ery day. In 2013, As­sad crossed Obama’s “red line” when the Eastern Ghouta chem­i­cal mas­sacre, which killed 1,400 Syr­i­ans, was per­pe­trated. The U.S. pres­i­dent was on TV ev­ery day talk­ing about mil­i­tary in­ter­ven­tion against the As­sad regime and looked as if he was about to launch up to 100 Tom­a­hawk cruise mis­siles against Da­m­as­cus. The whole world was wait­ing with bated breath, but he sud­denly and sur­pris­ingly an­nounced that the U.S. and Rus­sia reached an agree­ment to dis­arm Syria of chem­i­cal weapons. He also added that they also started ne­go­ti­a­tions with Iran on a nu­clear deal at the end of the same speech. It would have re­ally been a peace­ful act if U.S. Pres­i­dent Obama and his Western al­lies would have pushed Iran to get out of Syria and to stop ag­gres­sive and ex­pan­sion­ist poli­cies in the Mid­dle East. As­sad con­tin­ued to use chem­i­cal weapons more fre­quently. Ob­vi­ously, Iran sur­ren­dered in or­der not to lose Syria, and Obama left Iraq and Syria in the hands of Iran, caus­ing more and more civil­ian deaths.

A nu­clear deal frame­work was reached in 2015 be­tween Iran and the P5+1 coun­tries chang­ing the whole geopo­lit­i­cal bal­ance in the re­gion. Is­rael and Saudi Ara­bia openly stated that they felt be­trayed by the U.S. and in­creased their lobby against Obama and the Democrats. How­ever, it was Turkey, the NATO ally of the U.S., which suf­fered most be­cause of Obama’s bar­gain. Turkey was also the only one coun­try in the re­gion that stood up against the U.S. sanc­tions on Iran; how­ever, Tehran never cared about the past ef­forts of its friends once it got the deal.

U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, who has been pay­ing debts to Is­rael and Saudi Ara­bia for their sup­port with his Mid­dle East poli­cies since he took of­fice, has now un­leashed the tough­est sanc­tions ever on Iran, and brought the old geopol­i­tics back. To­day the ques­tion is if the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion seeks a new deal with Iran on harder terms as U.S. Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo im­plied, or will con­tinue to serve to what Tel Aviv and Riyadh de­mand. There are no clues yet.

Merve Şebnem Oruç

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