Esfandyar Batmanghelidj comments on the latest reimposition of Iran nuclear sanctions:
What is so vexing about Trump’s sanctions, particularly for the Iranian public, is that the government of the Islamic Republic did not violate the nuclear deal. Although Secretary of State Pompeo points to Iran’s “malign behaviors,” there is no proportionality evident in the decision to pursue a “maximum pressure” policy and to cripple the Iranian economy.
Today, ordinary Iranians are struggling to answer the question of why sanctions are being re-imposed and why they must suffer. This gives rise to a new fear that their suffering is unconditional and permanent, unrelated to their actions as citizens (who voted for Hassan Rouhani) or their government (which achieved the nuclear deal) or the international community (which vowed to stand up to the United States).
Trump’s rejection of the nuclear deal was an irrational, destructive decision whose costs are only starting to be felt. It was irrational in that rejecting the deal served no U.S. interests and because there was no other cause to reject it. Not only had Iran complied with the deal eleven times in a row before Trump reneged on it (and continued complying with it even after U.S. withdrawal), but none of the other parties to the JCPOA saw any reason for the U.S. to withdraw. Trump administration officials have lamely tried to justify the president’s bad decision by faulting the deal for not achieving any number of other things that it could never have achieved, but these are just excuses for violating an agreement that the members of this administration have always hated.
Iran did nothing to provoke the reimposition of nuclear sanctions, and the administration’s stated demands are so extravagant and unreasonable that there is no way that Iran would agree to them in order to get relief from these sanctions. The Iranian government engaged in constructive, cooperative behavior in negotiating the JCPOA, resolved an outstanding dispute through diplomatic means, and fulfilled its obligations, and in return it is still being treated as a pariah. What incentive could Iran’s government possibly have to negotiate with the U.S. on any issue ever again? The Trump administration hasn’t just given Iran every incentive to reject new talks, but it has also announced to the world that compromising and cooperating with the U.S. on anything is a fool’s errand. There is no point in negotiating with a government that reneges on sanctions relief and then offers it again in exchange for extreme concessions. The administration has made clear that it will sanction another country for things its government isn’t doing and won’t lift those sanctions until it capitulates and offers up everything.
The result is a profoundly unjust policy: nuclear sanctions are being reimposed on Iran despite Iranian compliance with the nuclear deal, the Iranian people are being punished for policies they do not control and cannot change, and our government is trying to intimidate the rest of the world into going along with its unjustified bullying. The policy punishes Iranians for doing the right things and inflicts suffering on all of them because of the wrongdoing of a few. The policy won’t improve regime behavior, it may drive Iran to repudiate the nuclear deal because it isn’t permitted to benefit from it, and it is likely to bring the U.S. and Iran closer to war.