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Pence’s Insulting Warsaw Speech

Pence's speech confirms that the administration's Iran obsession is an intense and destructive as ever.
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Mike Pence berated our closest European allies while in Poland and demanded that they withdraw from the JCPOA:

In a speech in Warsaw on Thursday, Pence reprimanded the U.K., France and Germany for creating a financing plan that would allow European companies to continue trading with Iran in spite of renewed American sanctions on the Islamic republic.

“They call this scheme a ‘Special Purpose Vehicle’,” Pence said, according to a copy of his prepared remarks. “We call it an effort to break American sanctions against Iran’s murderous revolutionary regime.’’

Pence fails to grasp that our allies don’t accept the legitimacy of these sanctions. The U.S. reimposed these sanctions in clear violation of the JCPOA and UNSCR 2231, and by threatening to apply them to European companies the U.S. has overreached and violated the sovereignty of our allies. The fact that they have gone to the trouble of creating a workaround mechanism should tell the Trump administration how seriously they take this. Our allies object to being told how and with whom they are permitted to do business by Washington, and they are finally doing something about it. Were it not for Trump’s irrational decision to exit the nuclear deal and his vindictive decision to reimpose sanctions, there would be no rift with our allies. Thanks to Pence’s histrionics, that rift is sure to grow even wider.

U.S. officials can’t make up their minds whether they think the “special purpose vehicle” is worthless or dangerous. They have tended to dismiss it as having little or no effect, but Pence’s attack suggests that they think it might be much more successful in facilitating legitimate trade between Europe and Iran. The vice president’s complaints about the mechanism are telling. At the moment, the European Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges (INSTEX) is supposed to be used to facilitate trade in humanitarian goods. The administration likes to pretend that their sanctions allow for this trade, but in practice their restrictions on financial institutions make it practically impossible for Iranians to pay for the goods. The “special purpose vehicle” is a way around that obstacle, and Pence makes clear in his speech that the administration is very much against anything that might actually succeed in getting the Iranian people the food and medicine they need.

That makes his demand that our allies renege on their commitments all the more ridiculous:

“The time has come for our European partners to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal and join with us as we bring the economic and diplomatic pressure necessary to give the Iranian people, the region and the world the peace, security and freedom they deserve,” he said.

Our allies aren’t going to join the Trump administration’s policy of collective punishment against the Iranian people. The nuclear deal is working as intended, and our allies have no reason to give up on it as long as Iran is complying with it. The administration’s pressure campaign is bringing hardship and misery to the Iranian people, and our allies refuse to participate in a policy of regime change in all but name. Our allies are doing what they can to uphold their end of the bargain that we all made, and Pence’s response is to throw a fit on European soil and make absurd demands that will be taken as an insult.

Pence’s speech confirms that the administration’s Iran obsession is an intense and destructive as ever. The Warsaw conference was already a mess. Pence’s insults directed at our allies guarantee that it will be a complete failure.



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