Alwaght- The US President Donald Trump on Monday announced new sanctions targeting the office of Iran’s Leader Sayyed Ali Khamenei and 8 of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) commanders. Shortly after, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced that Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif will also be put on sanctions list later this week.
Having in mind that the US earlier this year added to its terror list the IRGC, now introducing sanctions on the commanders of five naval areas of the Iranian military is clearly symbolic and a politically-motivated measure. Jarret Blanc, a senior fellow in geoeconomics and strategy at Carnegie Institute, said recently in a comment that the world experts agree that the new anti-Iranian sanctions are largely symbolic. Symbolism can be an effective instrument on the international arena but not when it carries foolish messages.
Political sanctions come by a set of motivations.
1. To attract the financial sources of its allies in the region, the US purports to be ready for military action against Iran. Shortly after a rocket attack on Baghdad’s Green Zone, where the US embassy is located, Trump posted a tweet accusing Iran of standing behind the attack and threatening it with destruction. A short time after attacks on oil tankers in the Persian Gulf and Oman Sea, Trump did the same against Tehran. However, after Iran’s shooting down of the Global Hawk drone, the US confusion became even clearer to its regional pro-war allies. To recover the damaged face, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo canceled his visit to India and traveled to the UAE and Saudi Arabia. Douglas Pando, a senior researcher in Cato Institute, told Aljazeera that Saudi Arabia and the UAE expected the US to be tough on Iran after the drone downing. They asked Washington to confront Iran militarily in the behalf of them. So, they are unhappy with calling off the so-called anti-Iranian strikes. Pompeo trip aimed at placating them. Along with Pompeo’s visit, the White House announced a new range of anti-Iranian sanctions in a bid to satisfy the Arab leaders. Pompeo himself in a tweet said that the trip was intended to assure the allies of continued strategic alliance.
2. Trump’s second goal is to arouse the ire of the Iranian decision makers so that he can take advantage of their possible mistakes to build an international alliance against Tehran. After the downing of the drone inside the Iranian airspace and finding its remains in Iran’s territorial waters, the US insisted that the incident took place off the Iranian airspace and took Iran case to the United Nations Security Council. But Washington failed to set up an international alliance surrounding its argument. Nikolai Patrushev, Russia’s national security council secretary general, on Tuesday said that Moscow has evidence that the downed drone entered Iran’s airspace. So, the US eyes an Iranian mistake so that it can build an international coalition to shoulder the costs of confrontation with Iran. During his visit to the region, Pompeo said that Washington seeks an alliance beyond Persian Gulf Arab states to cover European and Asian states.
3. The White House thought it could unveil details of the “deal of the century” on Palestine after the holy month of Ramadan. So, it unleashed the severest ever sanctions on Iran from April 22. It then on May 2 banned Iran’s steel and aluminum exports while it was seeking to maintain controlled tensions in the region. It continued the wave of sanctions by restricting Iran’s petrochemicals. This included a ban on Persian Gulf Petrochemicals Industries Company and 39 of its subsidiaries on June 8. By these sanctions, Trump administration, in fact, went beyond a climactic point in its anti-Iranian embargo.
Consequences of contradictory policies
The dissonance in the US administration is indicated by the contradictory tweets and remarks of Trump, National Security Advisor John Bolton, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Politico Magazine website has recently said that the maximum pressure campaign against Tehran has widened the gaps between the top foreign policy men Pompeo and Bolton. Bolton insists on regime change in Iran while Pompeo wants renegotiating the nuclear deal, as well as other cases like Tehran’s regional role.
Susan Rice, the former national security advisor under Barack Obama, suggests that Trump in order to move out of this situation he has to push aside his warlike advisor and Secretary of State. She adds that Trump’s miscalculations and wrong policies did not lead to the collapse of Iran’s economy. Despite the fact, she adds, that the Iranian economy has experienced negative growth, it still keeps its stability. This is while the US has consumed all of its key play cards against Iran. A professor of European studies at the University of Hong Kong notes that in the US there is a feeling that Iran only yields to negotiations under strength. But the Europeans understand that in a condition of force and blackmailing Iran will never negotiate.
On the other hand, the US last week officially launched the 2020 presidential election campaigns. The American public will not stand any new conflict, even a limited one. So, any confrontation with Iran will lead to his loss of votes.
Possible sanctions on FM Zarif
Smart policies and comments by the Iranian foreign ministry have angered the Israeli regime and Arab allies of the US. After a string of tweets mentioning B-Team– referring to Benjamin Netanyahu, Mohammed bin Salman, and Mohammed bin Zayed by Zarif, attacks on him considerably hiked. The Israeli foreign ministry’s Farsi account on Twitter stepped up its anti-Zarif posts recently, although it faces pessimistic responses as comments to its propaganda spread. The UAE foreign ministry, too, has recently stepped up its attacks on the Iranian foreign policy chief. So, sanctioning Zarif may come to appease Washington’s allies. Samantha Murphy Kelly argues that restrictions on Zarif only destroy the chances of diplomacy.
The US is yet to make it clear how it wants to introduce sanctions on Zarif. A ban against Venezuela’s foreign minister restricted his diplomatic movement to New York. This is against the international law and recognized rights for diplomats who have absolute immunity to any ban. Only when a country is subjected to chapter 7 of the UN charter, foreign countries can put its diplomats under a ban, on the condition that other UN Security Council members join them.
Restrictions on a foreign diplomat can disrupt his freedom of interaction with international institutions. In this case, a response to the Washington ban is likely by the UN members. If the US denies Zarif entry, the UN can hold its sessions in another country in reaction. For example, when President Donald Reagan of the US in 1988 canceled an entry visa issued to Palestinian Liberation Organization head Yasser Arafat, the UN General Assembly changed the place of its meeting in protest.