Farnaz Fassihi and David Kilpatrick report that the Iranian reaction to Trump’s newest sanctions has been mockery and derision:
In contrast to the threats and bluster of Tehran’s previous responses to the Trump administration’s maximum pressure campaign, Iranians across the political spectrum dismissed the latest embargoes on Monday as little more than insults. Both hard-liners and reformers argued that the new sanctions would have little practical impact, aside from undermining Mr. Trump’s repeated assertions that he is seeking to renew talks with Tehran, if only to restrict its nuclear weapons program.
“Sanctions announced today officially closed all the windows and doors for U.S. and Iran talks,” Hassan Soleimani, the editor in chief of the Revolutionary Guards’ Mashregh News Agency, said in a telephone interview from Tehran. “If Trump was hoping for negotiations with Iran, he can now only dream about it.”
It is understandable that Trump’s Iran policy invites ridicule. The people that suffer from its destructive effects have to laugh at the absurdity of a policy that can’t possibly work on its own terms. Mocking the policy helps people in Iran to cope with the dreary consequences that have been forced on them. When facing an irrational bully, sometimes the best thing to do is laugh at him and deny him the satisfaction of instilling fear. Trump makes it easy for them, especially when he can’t even get the name of the current Supreme Leader right.
Like the IRGC designation earlier this year, putting sanctions on top regime officials has little effect on regime finances. As an expression of hostility and disrespect, though, the latest sanctions have done a fine job of destroying any hope of talks between the U.S. and Iran before the next administration takes over. One of the main problems with the Trump administration’s policy towards Iran is that it is purely punitive and refuses to show them any respect. Trump and his hawkish allies assume that if they just squeeze another country hard enough they can force them to give up everything, but that fails to acknowledge that they have legitimate interests of their own.
Targeting the foreign minister for sanctions was even more foolish:
Most startling to Iranians was Mr. Trump’s order to add sanctions that target Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif. Mr. Zarif was educated in the United States and within the Iranian political system he is considered a moderate — the kind of figure hard-liners might seek to cast out and previous American administrations had sought to cultivate. As foreign minister, he would also be the main conduit for any negotiations with Tehran.
Both reformers and hard-liners said on Monday that the order to sanction Mr. Zarif severely undermined Mr. Trump’s repeated assertions he is seeking to reopen talks with Iran about a revised deal to limit its nuclear weapons program.
“The important point about sanctioning Zarif is the reality that the U.S. is not really after negotiations,” tweeted Ali Gholizadeh, a reform advocate who was jailed in the crackdown after a wave of pro-democracy protests in 2008.
Trump’s latest actions show that his supposed interest in negotiations is hollow. That was already fairly obvious from previous aggressive actions, but now there is no denying it. When administration officials claim to be interested in a diplomatic resolution with Iran, we can be certain that they are not telling us the truth. They feign interest in talks in order to appear more reasonable and open to compromise than they really are. The reality is that the administration has been doing everything it can to wreck an important international agreement with Iran and to undermine Iranian advocates of engagement. The administration has nothing but disdain for diplomacy and contempt for Iran, and they really hate the idea of diplomacy with Iran.