Why US New Sanctions Don’t Bother Iran AnymoreMahdi Poursafa
For years, news of the US congress imposing economic, military, and political sanctions on Iran have been reported. From the D'Amato Act which was based on the information derived from the AIPAC booklet, to the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), the American legislature has always been trying to decrease the threats against the interests of Israel and its allies.
Meanwhile, it seems that after the US withdrawal from the nuclear deal and reimposition of all previous embargos, the new round of sanctions seeks something other than putting pressure on Iran. One can say the new sanctions are meant to influence the relations between Tehran and Washington even if there is no Republican president in the White House.
Mark Dubowitz, the CEO of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies has repeatedly pointed to this goal. Trump does not like to let a Democrat president repeat an experience like what he did with the JCPOA.
The New Sanctions Will Not Affect Iran’s Economy
Adding people to the US Treasury blacklists or changing executive orders into sanctions will not have a significant effect on Iran’s economy, so the new sanctions seem to be seeking other goals.
Currently, a significant part of Iran's oil exports is through the export of oil products which can never be sanctioned due to their essence and nature. Unlike crude oil, oil products are usually transported via interwoven networks that cannot be traced and are not subject to bilateral seller-buyer sanctions.
So the new sanctions will not affect Iran’s financial relations significantly. Similarly, adding Iran to the blacklist of the Financial Action Task Force, and entering the names of the country’s financial institutes and organizations in the list of organizations providing financial support to individual terrorists or non-state actors, will not have any significant effect on Iran’s financial interactions; thus the purpose behind proposing the new round of sanctions is something else.
One of the other things which can block the road to the US-Iran negotiations and fulfill the Republicans’ dream forever, is to make executive orders into Congressional acts and laws.
The US Failed Stance
The reality is that the maximum pressure policy to bring Iran to its knees has not succeeded much as Iran continues its strong policy of resistance against Washington. Despite Trump hoping for Iran’s surrender, Tehran has taken an aggressive stance to counter US sanctions.
“We have been witnessing Trump administrations activities and their gamble on such issues believing that if we impose enough pressure on Iran we will see a change in the country and bring it back to the negotiations table and we can make changes in the regime through inciting unrest in the country”, said Philip Gordon, a former Obama administration official, in a meeting held to analyze Trump’s foreign policy, pointing to the second year of US withdrawal from the JCPOA.
Mr. Gordon added that Trump has not been able to carry out any of the mentioned goals and if he continues with his positions in foreign policies, particularly about Iran, he will get weaker before his Democrat rival in the presidential election. One of the other things which can block the road to the US-Iran negotiations and fulfill the Republicans’ dream forever, is to make executive orders into Congressional acts and laws.
US FP after Trump Leaves Office
So, if Trump is spending his last months in the White House, how can his policies be maintained and continued? The solution is to bring the hostility between the two countries into a non-returnable level. This is what Trump has been doing repeatedly. Even if Joe Biden becomes the next US president, he cannot remove the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (or the IRGC) from the list of terrorist organizations easily, unless he pays a big price.
This is while removal of the IRGC from the list of terrorist organizations will be one of the main demands of Iran in case of any negotiation. This cannot be done easily. The other thing which puts obstacles on the way to negotiations is to turn the president’s executive orders into congressional acts.
Currently, the majority of US sanctions against Iran are made through the president’s executive orders. In these cases, the president and his administration are in charge of removing the sanctions. So, Congress should limit waivers by the executive branch that are meant to suspend the implementation of sanctions against Iran.
The US legislators have emphasized that the sanctions against Iran must not be lifted without the permission of the House of Representatives and the Senate. Besides, there are three executive orders issued by US presidents against Iran over so called human rights problems. These are required to be turned into laws. So even if a democrat president wants to change these orders, he must have the full support of a Democrat Congress, thus it depends on various factors. Inside Iran too, there are objections from public opinion over entering into bilateral negotiations with the US which cannot be convinced easily.
Improving Domestic Resources to Plans for Future
Considering what was discussed, the policy-makers must know that even if Trump fails in the US presidential election and Biden gets to power, a change is the US-Iran relationships will not be made easily; and even if the next administration decides to re-enter the JCPOA, the process takes more than two years. Therefore, our plan for the next four years must be made based on our own domestic resources, with the least dependence on foreign developments including the US presidential election.