Iran slams ‘bul­ly­ing,’ vows to defy sanc­tions

The Washington Times Weekly - - Geopolitics - BY S.A. MILLER

The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion last week tight­ened the noose on Iran, restor­ing sweep­ing eco­nomic and fi­nan­cial sanc­tions aimed at forc­ing the Is­lamic regime to give up nu­clear am­bi­tions and sup­port of ter­ror­ism.

The sanc­tions tar­get­ing Iran’s bank­ing, en­ergy and trans­porta­tion in­dus­tries ful­filled a ma­jor prom­ise for Pres­i­dent Trump af­ter his de­ci­sion in May to pull the U.S. out of the 2015 nu­clear deal ne­go­ti­ated by the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion and other world pow­ers.

While Tehran vowed to defy the sanc­tions and other coun­tries scram­bled to pre­serve the nu­clear pact, Trea­sury Sec­re­tary Steven T. Mnuchin said the clam­p­down, which was the largest sin­gle-day ac­tion tar­get­ing the regime, was just the start of the eco­nomic pain for Iran.

“The max­i­mum pres­sure ex­erted by the United States is only go­ing to mount from here,” said Mr. Mnuchin.

Iran fought back, greet­ing the re­newed U.S. sanc­tions with air de­fense drills and de­fi­ant rhetoric.

“We are in the eco­nomic war sit­u­a­tion. We are con­fronting a bul­ly­ing en­emy. We have to stand to win,” said Pres­i­dent Has­san Rouhani.

He vowed to keep sell­ing the oil that is the coun­try’s eco­nomic lifeblood.

Mr. Trump and other crit­ics of the nu­clear deal say the ac­cord was poorly ne­go­ti­ated and hasn’t stopped Iran’s ag­gres­sive mil­i­tary moves, its ag­gres­sive moves to­ward Is­rael and its sup­port for rad­i­cal prox­ies across the Mid­dle East. Sup­port­ers say U.N. in­spec­tors have re­peat­edly said Iran has abided by its prom­ises un­der the agree­ment and that un­der­min­ing the deal will leave Iran free to re­sume its nu­clear pro­grams.

Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo con­firmed that the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion had ap­proved tem­po­rary waivers for eight ma­jor cus­tomers of Ira­nian oil — China, In­dia, Italy, Greece, Ja­pan, South Korea, Tai­wan and Turkey — al­though all are ex­pected to cut their Ira­nian pur­chases and even­tu­ally cut off all ties.

Mr. Trump told re­porters that he granted the waivers to pre­vent a ma­jor shock to global en­ergy mar­kets.

“We have the tough­est sanc­tions ever im­posed. But on oil, we want to go a lit­tle bit slower be­cause I don’t want to drive the oil prices in the world — this has noth­ing to do with Iran,” said Mr. Trump. “I could get the Iran oil down to zero im­me­di­ately, but it would cause a shock to the mar­ket.”

Some Iran hawks in Congress said the ad­min­is­tra­tion un­wisely pulled its punches in agree­ing to the ex­cep­tions. Mr. Pom­peo coun­tered that Iran’s of­fi­cial oil ex­ports have al­ready been cut by more than 1 mil­lion bar­rels of crude per day, cost­ing the coun­try $2.5 bil­lion in rev­enue.

“The Ira­nian regime has a choice,” Mr. Pom­peo told re­porters while stand­ing along­side Mr. Mnuchin. “It can ei­ther do a 180-de­gree turn from its out­law course of ac­tion and act like a nor­mal coun­try, or it can see its econ­omy crum­ble.”

Get­ting it right

Se­nate For­eign Re­la­tions Com­mit­tee Chair­man Bob Corker, a Ten­nessee Repub­li­can and fre­quent critic of Mr. Trump, said the pres­i­dent got it right this time and that the in­creased pres­sure is the only way to get bet­ter terms from Iran.

“The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion de­serves credit for reim­pos­ing sanc­tions and dra­mat­i­cally re­duc­ing Iran’s oil ex­ports and rev­enues,” said Mr. Corker, who also op­posed the 2015 deal with Iran. “I sup­port the ad­min­is­tra­tion in its pur­suit of a bet­ter Iran deal — one with­out the sun­set pro­vi­sions that ul­ti­mately would have en­abled Iran to achieve a nu­clear weapons ca­pa­bil­ity — and be­lieve that im­pos­ing max­i­mal eco­nomic pres­sure on Iran is vi­tal for get­ting Iran back to the ta­ble.”

Rep. Adam B. Schiff of Cal­i­for­nia, the top Demo­crat on the House Per­ma­nent Se­lect Com­mit­tee on In­tel­li­gence, agreed that Iran is a rogue regime but said Mr. Trump’s go-it-alone for­eign pol­icy is un­der­min­ing na­tional se­cu­rity and pit­ting the U.S. against not only Rus­sia and China, but also key West­ern Euro­pean al­lies who have vowed to find ways to work around Mr. Trump’s sanc­tions.

“It is a se­ri­ous and self-in­flicted in­jury to Amer­ica’s global lead­er­ship and our abil­ity to ne­go­ti­ate durable agree­ments with our al­lies and ad­ver­saries,” he said. “The down­side risks to this pol­icy are man­i­fold — it could cause Iran to restart its nu­clear en­rich­ment ef­forts, bring­ing us closer to a mil­i­tary con­fronta­tion.”

Ac­cord­ing to the ad­min­is­tra­tion, the re­stored sanc­tions hit list in­cludes:

50 Ira­nian banks and their for­eign and do­mes­tic sub­sidiaries.

More than 400 tar­gets, in­clud­ing over 200 peo­ple and ves­sels, in Iran’s ship­ping and en­ergy sec­tors.

Iran Air and more than 65 of the air­line’s air­craft.

Nearly 250 peo­ple and as­so­ci­ated prop­erty that are be­ing re­in­stated on a U.S. fi­nan­cial black­list.

The moves end all eco­nomic ben­e­fits that the U.S. gave Tehran in the nu­clear deal, of­fi­cially ti­tled the Joint Com­pre­hen­sive Plan of Ac­tion.

The plan, which Mr. Trump called the worst agree­ment ever ne­go­ti­ated, did not af­fect the regime’s pro­lif­er­a­tion of bal­lis­tic mis­siles and wide­spread sup­port of ter­ror­ism. The White House wants to curb those be­hav­iors and se­cure a more per­ma­nent end to Iran’s nu­clear weapons devel­op­ment.

Iran has ex­pe­ri­ence evad­ing in­ter­na­tional sanc­tions, in­clud­ing the global iso­la­tion cam­paign put to­gether by the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion in the years be­fore the 2015 Iran nu­clear deal. This time, Iran doesn’t face a united front be­cause Mr. Trump pulled the U.S. from the six­na­tion agree­ment with Iran uni­lat­er­ally. The other par­ties to the deal — Bri­tain, France, Ger­many, China and Rus­sia — all say they will stick with it, and Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin dis­patched a top aide to Tehran last week to re­state the Krem­lin’s will­ing­ness to do busi­ness with Iran.

Ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials also stressed that the sanc­tions tar­get the Ira­nian regime, not the Ira­nian peo­ple, and the goal of the sanc­tions is not regime change. Mr. Pom­peo this sum­mer listed a dozen points where Wash­ing­ton wants Ira­nian be­hav­ior to change be­fore the U.S. lifts the sanc­tions.

Be­fore the sanc­tions were re­in­stated, Iran was al­ready in the grip of an eco­nomic cri­sis, in part be­cause of pre­vi­ous U.S. pres­sure.

Its na­tional cur­rency, the rial, now trades at 150,000 to the U.S. dol­lar. It traded at about 40,500 a year ago. The eco­nomic chaos sparked mass anti-gov­ern­ment protests at the end of last year that re­sulted in nearly 5,000 re­ported ar­rests and the deaths of at least 25 peo­ple. Spo­radic demon­stra­tions con­tinue.

The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion has made ac­com­mo­da­tions to al­low some hu­man­i­tar­ian trade to con­tinue with Iran.

The Trea­sury’s of­fice of for­eign as­sets con­trol said it will main­tain hu­man­i­tar­ian au­tho­riza­tions and ex­cep­tions that al­low for the sale of agri­cul­tural com­modi­ties, food, medicine and med­i­cal de­vices to Iran.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo (left), with Trea­sury Sec­re­tary Steven T. Mnuchin, said, “The Ira­nian regime has a choice. It can ei­ther do a 180-de­gree turn from its out­law course of ac­tion and act like a nor­mal coun­try, or it can see its econ­omy crum­ble.”

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