Home/Daniel Larison/The Costs of Trump’s Economic War on Iran Keep Growing

The Costs of Trump’s Economic War on Iran Keep Growing

Paul Pillar comments on the attack on the Saudi oil facility at Abqaiq, and he connects it to the administration’s dangerous, failing “maximum pressure” campaign:

Iranian leaders have been explicit in warning that if Iran could not export its oil, then other Persian Gulf producers would not be able to either. Was anyone in the Trump administration listening?

To borrow another formulation from Pompeo’s tweet, there is no evidence that in the absence of the administration’s economic warfare against Iran, Iran would do anything like attack the Abqaiq facility or have any incentive to conduct such an attack. If Iran did do the attack, then it was a direct and unsurprising result of the administration’s policy of unrelenting hostility and of inflicting economic pain with no apparent end.

The Trump administration’s economic war on Iran has not achieved anything except to destabilize the region further and impoverish the Iranian people. It is the cause of the current crisis with Iran, and were it not for this economic war we can reasonably assume that there would have been no attacks on tankers, pipelines, and possibly oil facilities in the last few months. As Pillar notes, the administration has shown Iran unrelenting hostility, and they have continued to apply one set of sanctions after another, and then the administration pretends that its own actions have not created the present mess. A smart administration would start lifting sanctions, but then a smart administration would never have imposed them in the first place.

Under no circumstances should the U.S. increase its involvement in Yemen and do more to devastate that country, as this former admiral has suggested that we do in an interview with Foreign Policy. The U.S. should have ended our involvement in the war on Yemen long ago. It is an ongoing disgrace that the administration continues to support and arm the governments that have been destroying and starving Yemen. Our involvement in the war is already unauthorized and illegal, and directly launching attacks alongside the Saudi coalition would make things even worse.

Deescalating tensions with Iran is the only sane way forward, so of course the only thing being seriously considered right now in Washington is a possible attack on Iran. It can’t be stressed enough that the U.S. has no justification, legal or otherwise, to launch an attack on Iran. Not only is the U.S. not obliged to come to the defense of Saudi Arabia, but our government is bound by the U.N. Charter that prohibits using force against another state except in self-defense. No one can seriously claim that a U.S. strike on Iran right now would be anything other than an illegal attack in clear violation of international law.

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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