Iran sanctions revisited

In his great undoing of the “accomplishments” of the Obama administration, President Trump has withdrawn the United States from the humiliating and destructive Iran nuclear deal. The deal funded a terrorist regime that remains at war with the United States and that continues to avow its dedication to our destruction. There was no bridge too far for Obama in seeking to align the United States with the mullahs of Iran. Michael Doran explained the “secret strategy” driving this policy. Whatever the explanation, Obama’s appeasement of Iran represented part of the “fundamental transformation” of the United States that he proclaimed in the days before the 2008 election. I am grateful for the intercession of President Trump and his national security team.

The Trump administration is also reimposing sanctions on the Iranian regime, effective today. The administration has termed the policy one of “maximum pressure” on the regime to reform its behavior. The sanctions to be imposed today target Iran’s oil, shipping, energy and banking sectors. These sanctions only go into effect today, but they have already begun to bite. Caline Malek reports here for Arab News from Dubai on the reimposition of sanctions.

Former New York Times reporter Michael Gordon, now with the Wall Street Journal, reports on the related reorientation of American foreign policy in “Trump digs in for a long cold war with Iran” (accessible here via Outline). Gordon argues, New York Times style, with the effectiveness of the policy. He apparently couldn’t find anyone to speak in its favor. I should think that lessening the resources of the regime to fund evil beyond Iran’s borders is good in itself, but this is a point that escapes Gordon.

Treasury Secretary Mnuchin has won an internal administration argument about leaving Iranian banks with access to the SWIFT financial system. On Friday Secretary Mnuchin and Pompeo held a conference call with reporters explaining the scope of sanctions. Having lost the argument, National Security Advisor John Bolton professed to have a scheduling conflict.

Controversy arose when the sanctions were announced in terms of Iran’s access to the SWIFT financial system and its potential to bypass the sanctions through it. According to Mnuchin, “SWIFT is no different than any other entity, and we have advised SWIFT the Treasury will aggressively use its authorities as necessary to continue intense economic pressure on the Iranian regime.” Malek’s Arab News article has more on this point.

My daughter Eliana has reported for Politico on the dissatisfaction of Senators Cotton et al. with the resolution of the issues regarding SWIFT. Published on Thursday evening in advance of Friday’s conference call with Mnuchin and Pompeo, the story is here.

Chris Wallace raised the issue with Secretary Pompeo in an interview on FOX News Sunday. He reiterated the point that Mnuchin made on Friday’s conference call: “The Iranian banks that engage in sanctionable behavior will be sanctioned by the Department of Treasury — period, full stop.”

Asked why Senators Cotton et al. are not persuaded, Pompeo avoided a direct response: “I worked with Senator Cotton [in the House]…I’ve been at this a long time. No one’s going to argue that Secretary Pompeo isn’t tough on Iran and no one is going to argue that President Trump isn’t doing the same.”

The Journal supports the policy as announced in a short editorial (accessible here on Outline): “The U.S. retains the flexibility to tighten sanctions further in coming months[.]” The editorial also provides this somewhat more persuasive response to Gordon’s Wall Street Journal article: “[Today’s] measures will deprive the rulers in Tehran of more cash for their foreign adventures.”

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