Putting US sanctions on Iran in context

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Md. Sharif Hasan
Published : 21:10, Aug 11, 2018 | Updated : 21:27, Aug 11, 2018

Md. Sharif HasanThe United States re-imposed a wave of tough unilateral sanctions against Iran bring him back into effect harsh penalties that had been lifted under a multi-party historic nuclear agreement that Donald Trump had abandoned in May. The first of two rounds of US sanctions target Iran’s access to Iran bank notes and key industries including cars and carpets.
Given this current trajectory, three perspectives stand out when you care to look. Firstly, the anti-Iran rhetoric which has been flowing from the United States for the last nearly two years is now taking policy shape and implementation stage. And this is in continuation of what we have been hearing for quite some time that Iran is the source of trouble for much of the problems which America is facing in the Middle East along with its allies Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. So, there’s a new alliance in the region along with the United States which is trying to target Iran for its alleged activities undermining American interests and its allies’ strategic interest in Iraq, from Syria to Yemen to Bahrain and various other places including Lebanon. So, they want Iran to change its behaviour or to withdraw its interference in the Arab sector as Saudis have been clamouring for.
Secondly, Iran has been for quite some time thinking of switching over from dollar to euro and Chinese currency Renminbi (popularly known as Yuan) for its oil trade. And the Central bank of China has been pushing for that. So, Russia, China, Iran and some other countries are seen as trying to undermine the American dollar which dominates the oil trade sector. China is trying to popularize Yuan as the global currency vice-versa. Although the economy of Iran is very small but the fact is that this is an entry point to start this kind of campaign that Yuan becomes a global currency.
Thirdly, Iran has built up military capability over the last couple of years despite US sanctions, UN sanctions; EU sanctions so on and so forth. And, it has seen as a major military threat not only by the United States but also its allies Israel and Saudi Arabia. So, in that way, the political, economic, military and strategic emergence of Iran as a regional power beyond its reach what they see is seen to be contained in a systematic manner. This was seen as a first step.
Turbulent times ahead
Simply put, the immediate impact of sanctions is in the field of science and technology. They were seeking Airbus and Boeing Jets for their ageing fleet what a few air accidents have taken place because they were unable to get spare parts and then for the oil sector also; many high-tech were needed including for LNG export that would be a casualty. And, of course for the larger reconstruction and development, they were expecting from the United States quite a lot which is not available elsewhere in China, Russia or even in Europe so that is a setback for the Iranians because they will not be able to get that.
Moreover, New York is the hub for global financial transaction whether it is credit card or investments or insurance. All of that is controlled and dominated from New York and Iran’s exclusion from that would affect its oil industry, economic development and also its global economic operations.
For example, even the Iranian students who go abroad for studies getting foreign exchange would be difficult and also to finance the imports. This is the economic aspect.
Beyond this, Iran would face secondary effect also and that is the beefing up of the American presence in the Gulf which is already quite widespread from Bahrain to Kuwait to Oman. And what we are seeing is an attempt by the United States and Israel and Saudi to contain Iran within the sectors where they are known for that is Afghanistan and Central Asia and to rollback their presence. And, this Iranian presence in the Arab world was basically because of the continuous military, political and other threats from the United States since 1979 so in that way these sanctions would only redouble the Iranian efforts to stay back in these places including Syria where they are very near to the Golan Heights in the Israeli border.
The factors that matter
Many political and security experts in the US and elsewhere are of the opinion that Donald Trump is satisfying his voters and is implementing whatever is his manifesto was. Coupled that with, he is pleasing the Israeli Lobby because there’s no direct threat to the United States from Iran at any stage except for what Israel dictate to the United States is they were following. He’s now not only threatening Iran; he is also threatening his partners and rest of the world tweeting whoever do business with Iran, he’s not doing business with the United States. He is taking this maximalist position to try and avert a serious blockade despite the fact that the Israelis are definitively the beneficiaries of this and they feel an existential threat from Iran. Trump himself has this kind of attitudes and approaches towards the foreign policy issues that start from the top that otherwise, one can really explain how suddenly—you come out of the blue and you say I’m ready for the talks.
Coming into the strategic issues: the first point one would like to make is that this is an inconsistency in the behaviour of US when they did it. One month back, they had rhetoric’s and provocative statements; a week back, they were talking of summit and a day back the world sees sanctions
It’s a clear indication that the US administration under Donald Trump is the most dangerous because the previous administration would use dialogue and diplomacy as a measure of backdoor diplomacy to open dialogue with Iran. And they reached a deal with Iran with the 5+1 which was very hard-earned. When the 2015 deal was signed in that time the US had all the allies with them. As of now, there are no allies with Washington because they have no walked out of it. Against huge international opposition, he unilaterally withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal (JCPOA).
Finally, Russia on the other hand strongly supported Iran. They said they will not abide by the unilateral sanctions by the United States. Similarly, also China has been very vocal about it and they said they will not cut down the oil because Beijing is the main importer of oil from Tehran. It depends also on United States allies and partners how much they will really abide by the United States threatening and will be they able to move away from the American sphere. If the American declares war on Iran: be it trade war or all-out war. Reversely, the Iranian told the American and that the rest of the world that Hormuz passage if it is not only for the Iranian; it is either for everybody or nobody. So, if this kind of rhetoric coming from both the countries that don’t mean any military threat that could be seen in the near future of the United States wanted to go for a new adventure as they have done in Iraq.

Md. Sharif Hasan is a field researcher for the Centre for Genocide Studies at the University of Dhaka.

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