Alwaght- The US President Donald Trump recently announced an array of sanctions on a set of countries, particularly Iran. Trump said he will sanction those buying oil from Tehran. Lack of justification for the new round of sanctions from the viewpoint of international law pushes some experts to describe it “economic terrorism.” To get an understanding of this concept and the drives behind it, a definition of economic terrorism looks necessary. We also need to know why Trump is using this instrument to peruse his objectives.
What is economic terrorism?
The word “terror” has its roots in the French Revolution of the 18th century, meaning to frighten. The terrorism concept refers to the use of violence or threatening to use violence to gain some political, religious, or ideological goals. Despite the fact that terrorism is defined in various ways, all definitions agree on a single sense: terrorism is accompanied by violence or a threat to use violence.
Terrorism has various forms. In addition to the political and military terrorism, there is also economic terrorism, meaning the use of an array of coordinated and complicated destabilizing measures to undermine a state economically and financially.
The definition of the US Department of Defense for terrorism in 1990 in its essence carries economic terrorism. This is how the word “terrorism” is defined by the Department of Defense: “Terrorism is the use of force or violence against persons or property in violation of the criminal laws of the United States for purposes of intimidation, coercion, or ransom. Terrorists often use threats to create fear among the public, try to convince citizens that their government is powerless to prevent terrorism, get immediate publicity for their causes.”
According to the Pentagon strategists’ definition, the illegal use of force or threat against the property of persons and states falls under terrorism. One very crystal clear instance of economic terrorism is, thus, the illegal and unilateral sanctions the Trump administration has imposed on the Iranian people.
The record of economic terrorism against Iran
In the Pentagon’s definition of terrorism, four factors are helpful to recognize an act of terrorism. 1. Being illegal 2. Being violent 3. Targeting collectively 4. Targeting people’s lives and properties. The US economic sanctions against Iran are a true example of economic terrorism because they are illegal, violent, targeting collectively, and targeting the Iranian people and their property, both personal and public. The Trump’s anti-Tehran sanctions, which were reinstated after his May 2918 withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal, were firmly rejected by the signatories, China, Russia, Britain, Germany, and France, as they openly breach the United Nations Security Council’s resolution 2231 which was approved after the nuclear agreement with six powers and revoked all of the past sanctions imposed on the Islamic Republic.
Moreover, Iran filed a suit with the Hague court against the re-imposed ban arguing they violated a still-alive treaty of amity between Tehran and Washington dating back to the 1950s. The complaint asked for lifting restrictions on medicines, food, aviation safety equipment, and other services. According to the second factor of the Pentagon, violence is another defining factor of economic terrorism. Trump administration has repeatedly said that the new sanctions are aimed at putting maximum pressure on Tehran and, the most unprecedented ones, are meant to “paralyze” the Iranian economy.
The third factor in Pentagon definition is collectivity. The aim of the sanctions is not just one person. Rather, they are targeting Iranian people’s lifelines like oil, petrochemicals, and transportation. Apparent enough, it is the Iranian people who are the ultimate victims. Putting strains on people of a country and also using violence against them to press their government is not new to the US foreign policy. Examples are the atomic attacks on Japan’s Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the shooting down of the Iran Air Flight 655 plane in 1988 with 290 passengers over the Persian Gulf while was en route to Dubai from Tehran. The US rewarded the captain of the USS Vincennes guided missile cruiser with a medal for the plane downing.
The anti-Iranian sanctions date back to 1979, the year the Islamic Revolution removed the monarchy system represented by West’s ally King Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, or Shah. The first round of ban started from 1979 to 1981. The second round came from 1981 to 1988, when the country was in the middle of a war started by Saddam Hussein of Iraq. In general, so far, the US imposed seven rounds of sanctions against Tehran, or better to say economic terrorism. The Trump-approved ban is the severest kind of economic terrorism, many analysts agree.
What’s driving Trump’s economic hostility?
Although Iran was a frontrunner in the fight against the ISIS terrorist group in Iraq and Syria, Tehran repeatedly has been described by Trump administration as a “destabilizing force” in the region. The US leader pursues a set of political and security goals behind the economic crackdown on the Islamic Republic. First is to cause public discontent and chaos inside Iran. As his national security document sets, Trump’s goals is to weaken Iran’s economy and sow insecurity inside the country all to create a “favorable regional balance of power” in the best interest of the Israeli regime.
Trump’s document also promotes a campaign of Iranophobia in the region to blackmail Washington’s Arab allies politically and economically under the cover of “work with regional partners.” Creating fear and terror is just one of the economic terrorism’s tools. Richard Nephew, a former architect of anti-Iranian sanctions, says triggering “emotional reactions” is one of the most favorable scenarios sought by the Iran ban designers in White House. The final goal is to create a sense of mistrust in the national economy to double the effects of the embargo.
By continuing and toughening the restrictions, Trump government wants to put Iran and the allied Axis of Resistance in dire straits economically while Washington unveils and materializes the “deal of the century”, a plot aimed at recognizing Israeli occupation and depriving the Palestinians of their right to return. But, Nephew notes, White House is afraid of ineffectiveness of the embargo due to possible “economic reforms” in Iran and a lack of global consensus.
So far, Trump failed to cultivate a global consensus and on the other hand the economic terrorism has pushed the US soft power’s ranking lower, which means degraded US credibility and influence at international scene. Recently, Foreign Policy magazine in an article written by Stephen Walt, a prominent professor international affairs at Harvard University, suggested that the US power doom is unavoidable.