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How Sanctions Kill Diplomacy

President Trump and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif. Christopher Halloran / Shutterstock.com, European External Action Service/Flickr

Golnar Motevalli reports on the official Iranian government reaction to yesterday’s announcement of new sanctions on top regime officials, including the Supreme Leader:

Iran said the path to a diplomatic solution with the U.S. had closed after the Trump administration imposed sanctions against its supreme leader and other top officials, raising tensions days after the downing of an American drone brought the Middle East to the brink of war.

President Donald Trump on Monday unveiled sanctions on Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and eight senior military commanders that deny him and his office access to financial resources. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said financial restrictions would also be introduced against Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif later this week.

“The futile sanctions against the Iranian leader and the country’s chief diplomat mean the permanent closure of the diplomatic path with the government of the United States,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi was quoted as saying by semi-official Iranian Students News Agency.

The Iranian reaction is an understandable and entirely predictable one. If the administration were serious about holding real negotiations, they would not have imposed these sanctions on Khamenei and they wouldn’t be threatening to sanction Zarif. Then again, if they had ever been interested in diplomacy with Iran they wouldn’t have done any of the things they have done over the last thirteen months. When unrepentant warmongers and hard-liners claim to want negotiations, it is safe to assume that they are pretending for effect. The Trump administration has said that it wants to talk while doing everything possible to make it impossible for negotiations to proceed. That deception may fool some people, but it isn’t fooling anyone in the other government.

Iranian President Rouhani called out the administration for lying about their interest in negotiations:

“You say let’s talk and then you sanction the foreign minister. This clearly shows that you’re lying,” he said in a speech carried live on Iranian state TV.

Iran already had many reasons not to talk to Trump, and with these latest moves the president guaranteed that there will be no negotiations while he is still president. That is exactly what Bolton and other Iran hawks have been seeking, and once again the president gave them exactly what they wanted when they wanted it. Trump claims not to want war with Iran, but in practice he keeps doing everything he can to make it more likely.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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