By Prarthana Mitra
Raging for over a decade now, Iran’s nuclear issue has brought the open market, the UN’s peace-making initiatives and the nuclear armament race at loggerheads with one another, with the welfare of Iranians in the crosshairs.
— Reuters Top News (@Reuters) August 7, 2018
The latest dramatic turn in the already festering international relations arrived this week with the US re-imposing heavy sanctions on Iran which took effect on Tuesday. US president Donald Trump has further threatened tougher restrictions on oil exports starting November 2018.
“In November they ratchet up to yet another level. Anyone doing business with Iran will NOT be doing business with the United States. I am asking for WORLD PEACE, nothing less!” he tweeted.
The Iran sanctions have officially been cast. These are the most biting sanctions ever imposed, and in November they ratchet up to yet another level. Anyone doing business with Iran will NOT be doing business with the United States. I am asking for WORLD PEACE, nothing less!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 7, 2018
Here’s what happened and why
The re-imposed penalties come despite the Iranian government living up to its commitments under the landmark 2015 nuclear agreement, which the Trump pulled out of in May. Trump’s disdain for the deal was apparent from the very start. With involvement in Lebanon, Gaza, Yemen and Syria, the hostile relations between Iran and Israel (a close ally of the US in the middle east) deteriorated further.
Only recently, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu suggested that Iran could not be trusted, even after they did away with large parts of their nuclear programme and allowed international inspectors to monitor what was left. Netanyahu’s rhetoric in calling Iran’s deal as one based on lies, rings familiar now as Trump recently also defined the deal as disastrous, horrible, laughable, one-sided and worst.
Although it has its loopholes (it does not cover Iran’s ballistic missile programme, for instance), the agreement brokered by then president Barrack Obama did limit Iran’s alarming nuclear advances in exchange for sanction reliefs worth Iranian president Hassan Rouhani has described the controversial reimposition as “psychological warfare” aimed at sowing “division among Iranians.”
What happens next and what are Iran’s choices?
The new sanctions prohibit Iranians from trading in gold, aluminium and steel, and also places the currency rial in a precarious position against the American dollar. In the next phase come November, sanctions on oil, shipping, insurance and the central bank of Iran will also take effect.
Trump went a step further on Tuesday, tweeting his refusal to tolerate trade relations with “anyone doing business with Iran.” If this is to be taken as a strong warning for those countries with bilateral relations with both Iran and the US remains to be seen. The European Union is certainly unnerved by America’s threats, urging its companies to continue and even bolster trade with Tehran, with safeguards for firms doing “legitimate business” in Iran.
— The Hill (@thehill) August 7, 2018
Speaking to BBC, adjunct professor of Middle East politics at SAIS London, Dr. Sanam Vakil, said that there is very little that the Europeans can do to save the JCPoA because they cannot compel international firms to maintain presence and visibility in Iran. Many are already defecting to protect themselves from paralysing sanctions by the US, as domestic unrest and frustration rise among the Iranians.
— CNN (@CNN) August 7, 2018
This sort of pressure is exactly what the US is expecting will bring Iran to the negotiating table again. Whether Iran relents to Trump’s tariff war and if it will be the lesser of two evils, remains to be seen.
Prarthana Mitra is a staff writer at Qrius.