US Sanctions Push Iran To Provocative Steps And Heighten Tensions – OpEd


Sanctions, which seek to block a country’s trade altogether, amount to economic warfare against civilians and therefore measures must be taken to protect them during such actions, said Idriss Jazairy, the UN Special Rapporteur on the effect of sanctions on human rights, in connection with Donald Trump’s resumption of the US restrictions against the oil industry and banking structure of Iran.

“While the right of states to disagree with each other should be respected, harming the human rights of ordinary civilians should not be resorted to as a means of political pressure on a targeted government. This is illegal under international human rights law,” says the statement by Idriss Jazairy, published on the organization’s website on November 8.

“Under economic sanctions, people also die but from lack of food and medicine, rather than from explosive devices. This form of warfare that relies on starvation and disease deserves the same concern from the international community as any other conflict,” the statement goes on saying.

Meanwhile, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said that the country’s economy could overcome any problems caused by American pressure.

“US sanctions had no effect on the Iranian economy. They are nothing but a psychological war. Washington will not be able to bring Iran’s oil sales to zero,” he said.

Analyzing the difficult situation, Tytti Erasto, Researcher on nuclear weapon issues, Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, suggested that the United States initially imposed excessive demands on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

“It was not a perfect deal from the US perspective, because it had limited in duration and did not solve other contentious issues with Iran. But to expect otherwise was unreasonable – the future of the nuclear program and other issues could have been discussed based on the foundation of trust created by the JCPOA. The US withdrawal from the JCPOA and the subsequent re-imposition of sanctions will not solve these problems either – instead they undermine the JCPOA and the prospects for any diplomatic negotiations on other contentious issues between the USA and Iran — and they also complicate relations between Europe and Iran,” the expert told PenzaNews.

Meanwhile, in her opinion, the JCPOA has worked well in limiting Iran’s nuclear program and increasing international confidence in Iranian intentions, though it was not perfect for Iran.

“Sanctions relief did not have the desired positive effect on the Iranian economy, even before the Trump administration. Now, with the re-imposed US sanctions, it seems that economic benefits for Iran have been lost almost completely, and the value of the deal is mainly political and security-related, having to do with the deal’s role in preventing a worsening international confrontation,” the analyst added.

According to her, US actions put at risk the European economy as well.

“In particular, this affected companies that were convinced to invest and expand their activities to Iran, trusting the previous US administration’s assurances that legitimate transactions would not lead to penalties. At the moment, the fear that any transaction with Iran could be regarded as illegal from the perspective of US Treasury is undermining even the supply basic necessities like medicine,” Tytti Erasto said.

The expert on Iran’s politics and nuclear program, professor at the University of Southern California, Muhammad Sahimi shared the view that the US sanctions harm ordinary Iranian citizens.

“The US claims that it supports Iranian people. The claim is bogus. Soon, even critical medicine and some food stuff will be difficult for Iran to import. The US claims that it wants democracy and respect for human rights for Iranian people. That is also bogus. If the US is really concerned about such issues, it should first begin with its own allies. Saudi Arabia is committing war crimes in Yemen with US and UK support and executes dissidents at home and abroad. Israel has become a colonialist nation occupying Palestinians land and killing Palestinians in Gaza,” Professor at the University of Southern California explained his point of view.

In his opinion, the sanctions are not only violation of an international agreement, but also violation of resolution 2231 of UN Security Council.

“This resolution was approved under Chapter VII of UN Charter, which means that its provisions are mandatory for all member states, including the United States. The sanctions will not bring Iran to the negotiation tables before US reverses its decision, but it will greatly hurt ordinary Iranians,” Muhammad Sahimi stressed.

According to him, sanctions are also detrimental to European countries.

“After signing JCPOA with Iran, many major European corporations, from Total to Airbus to French and German car makers signed lucrative agreement with Iran. Europe is Iran’s major commercial partner. Iran is a huge untapped market. Yes, EU will struggle, but I hope this becomes the critical lesson for the EU to stop relying on the US and begin developing its own policy that is good for the people of EU,” the analyst said.

At the same time he added that the JCPOA may survive as long as the EU keeps buying Iran’s oil and provides a vehicle to give Iran access to its financial resources and proceeds from its exports.

In turn, Elkhan Nuriyev, Expert Advisory Board Member at Reconnecting Eurasia, Global Energy Associate at Brussels Energy Club, expressed confidence that the JCPOA copes well with its main function.

“Of course, there is no international agreement that could be called perfect, but the JCPOA is the very agreement that is keeping Iran from working on the development of nuclear weapons,” the expert said.

“Since the implementation day, the deal has proved its viability. Recently in Vienna, the IAEA confirmed Iran’s implementation of the nuclear agreement. Moreover, the organization’s quarterly reports clearly prove that Iran’s reserves of low-enriched uranium remain intact, as required by the international agreement, ” Elkhan Nuriyev said.

However, according to him, Iran is already bearing real losses due to reduced oil exports.

“Thus, the average daily oil production in the country fell to almost 3 million barrels in the beginning of October compared to about 4 million barrels in May. At current prices, this means that Iran is losing almost 1 billion dollars per month. Given these data, we can expect a further decline in exports: by early November, five countries – even before the US sanctions – scaled downed their purchases of black gold from Iran. Disconnection from SWIFT also negatively affects the financial and economic system of the Islamic Republic, ”the analyst explained.

Commenting on the future developments, Elkhan Nuriyev stressed that much will depend on Iran’s geopolitical behavior and its reaction to the US increasing pressure.

“The withdrawal of Americans from the JCPOA seriously increased tensions not only between Tehran and Washington, but also around the Iranian nuclear program, once again causing distrust and creating uncertainty. Such an attitude of the Americans towards the international agreement and Tehran itself risks pushing Iran to resume nuclear program. The Americans are actually encouraging Iran to provocative actions, for then to make a strike. Whether it will be a political or a military strike, time will tell,” he noted.

Meanwhile, Kanishkan Sathasivam, Director, William H. Bates Center for Public & Global Affairs, Department of Political Science, Salem State University, said that Iranian deal “was deeply flawed.”

“This is because […] the weak sunset clauses and the disregard for Iran’s ballistic missile programs and its highly disruptive regional policies funded by the very funds it has gained from the lifting of sanctions. However, I am skeptical about whether the renewal of US-only sanctions can bring about changes in those problem areas. I think ultimately the problems of the JCPOA are not about Iran, but rather the accommodating and trusting approach towards Iran from Russia and the EU-3,” the analyst said.

In his opinion, in today’s context, the US-only sanctions will not produce changes in Iran’s behavior, but they “do have the potential to hurt EU economic interests.”

“This is exactly what the Iranians were hoping for right from the beginning. They knew that if they could come up with a deal that resulted in the EU establishing economic ties with Iran, including EU financial investments inside Iran, then their own actions with respect to the deal in the future would not matter because the EU would be unwilling to lose those benefits and investments. So this gives the Iranians de facto cover to violate parts of or even all of the deal down the road, whereby they could count on even the EU being hesitant to return to sanctions and especially military action against Iran,” Kanishkan Sathasivam explained his view, stressing that “the JCPOA not only did not close off all of Iran’s paths to a bomb, […] it actually served to provide Iran with a safe and protected path to it.”

In turn, Joe Brazda, Research Associate, James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, called US administration’s actions against Iran ill-conceived.

“Donald Trump believes the Iranian deal was bad policy and promised during his campaign to ‘tear it up.’ Trump has subsequently offered no evidence to support his claims it is the ‘worst deal ever.’ This unsupported declaration is in direct contradiction of thirteen IAEA Director General reports maintaining Iran is in full compliance with its JCPOA commitments. The US violation is an ill-conceived political effort to shore up Trump’s base and use scary words like ‘Iran’ to ensure a loyal vote,” Joe Brazda said.

He drew attention to the fact that from the implementation day of the treaty – for almost three years – there have been no significant violations on the part of the Iranians.

“All parties to the JCPOA, except the US, agree the deal is working as it is designed to do. Both paths to a nuclear weapon have been effectively blocked and Iran is not pursuing a nuclear weapons program at this time. Re-imposition of unilateral sanctions violates UNSCR 2231 in that the US committed to suspending sanctions as long as Iran remains in compliance with the provisions of the JCPOA,” the analyst added.

In his opinion, inside the United States there is still no consensus on the Iranian issue. Trump was offering to engage in unconditional talks with Iran in July 2018, while Pompeo made unrealistic twelve demands to it, he reminded.

“It would be difficult to measure any level of success until an objective is identified,” Joe Brazda said.

He also reminded that since Implementation Day, January 16, 2016, the partners of the deal, including EU economic operators, have concluded lucrative trade deals with Iran, but US sanctions now threaten the revenues they produce.

“Brussels has moved to protect EU companies by re-instituting a ‘blocking statute’ […] that makes it illegal for EU companies to discontinue business contracts with Iran due to US sanctions. In addition, the EU is working on an alternative funding mechanism to circumvent US sanctions on financial institutions traditionally used to conduct business with Iran. Although these measures will have some effect on trade between the EU and Iran, pressure from the US will undoubtedly dissuade many companies from engaging in any new agreements, as demonstrated by the French energy giant Total’s withdrawal from the South Pars natural gas project in the Persian Gulf,” the expert explained.

From his point of view, the US policy towards Iran introduces uncertainty in the further development of the situation.

“The Trump administration has issued a number of waivers to states that are primary importers of Iranian crude. Disrupting this supply risks causing unnecessary turmoil in the oil market which could result in a spike in oil prices. As long as the partners remaining in the deal are willing to explore ways to conduct trade with Iran in spite of US sanctions, the only thing for certain is the US position as a global leader will continue to erode,” the analyst concluded.


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