Snapback complete — at least as it concerns the US. Donald Trump announced this in a rather unique manner this morning, referencing Game of Thrones in a tweet:
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 2, 2018
How long did someone work on that? Secretary of State Mike Pompeo followed up with an announcement that the Trump administration would reimpose all sanctions waived in the 2015 Iran deal, including and especially sanctions on oil sales and financial transactions with Tehran. The message, Pompeo says, is that Iran’s extremist and terror-supporting policies have to change:
The Trump administration is set to reimpose all sanctions against Iran that had been lifted as part of the 2015 nuclear agreement, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Friday. …
“On November 5th, the United States will reimpose sanctions that were lifted as part of the nuclear deal on Iran’s energy, shipbuilding, shipping, and banking sectors,” Pompeo said in a call with reporters, outlining the administration’s latest punitive steps against Tehran since leaving the Iran nuclear deal in May. …
“These sanctions hit at core areas of Iran’s economy,” Pompeo said. “They’re necessary to spur changes we seek on the part of the regime. In order to maximize the effect of the President’s pressure campaign, we have worked closely with other countries to cut off Iranian oil exports as much as possible.”
Eight nations will get waivers on oil imports from Iran, Pompeo announced, but only in the short run. They will have to import at “greatly reduced levels” as well, Pompeo noted without naming the eight countries. CNN reports that those will likely include Japan, South Korea, and India, but Pompeo told reporters that the State Department would announce the list Monday.
Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin announced that the US would enforce the sanctions on SWIFT, and that hundreds of new entities under reapplied sanctions would have to be excluded from the global banking system:
Mnuchin said the list of sanctioned entities will be published Monday and will cover more than 700 entities, including over 300 new designations. Under both administrations, many of the sanctions not only apply to Iranian individuals and entities, but also to individuals and entities in other countries that do business with Iran.
Mnuchin also said SWIFT, the bank messaging system that helps transmit billions of dollars around the world every day, would be treated the same as any other entity, noting it would be subject to sanctions if it provides financial services to designated entities.
There’s an exception for humanitarian actions, Mnuchin said, but “banks must be very careful that these are not disguised transactions.”
That’s going to create a lot of frustration in Europe, where they’ve been working on “vehicles” to allow countries to evade sanctions while still trading with Iran. The Trump administration insists so far that Europe won’t get any waivers, not even temporarily. We’ll have to see just how far the EU plans to push it, but they need the US and especially the SWIFT banking system more than they need Iran, even for the oil.
The point, USA Today reports, is to push for change in the regime, if not quite regime change:
The Trump administration announced Friday the snapback of crippling economic sanctions on Iran’s oil, banking, shipping and other sectors – reimposing penalties lifted by the Obama administration as part of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.
The White House hopes the sanctions – set to go into effect at midnight on Sunday and aimed at more than 700 Iranian individuals and entities – will strangle Iran’s economy and force the regime into a new round of negotiations.
The U.S. wants Iran to curb its ballistic missile program and its support for terrorism, among other steps. Iran’s leaders have said they are not interested in talks with the Trump administration.
The problem for the US is that the “snapback” doesn’t return us completely to the status quo ante of the JCPOA. We had more cooperation on international sanctions prior to the abysmal deal cut by Barack Obama and John Kerry, even nominally involving Russia and China. We won’t be able to put that band back together under these circumstances, or under any foreseeable circumstances at all. We will have less leverage and more constant pushback, and the economic sanctions will test our ties to allies perhaps more than economic ties between Iran and the rest of the world.
That’s why the deal was such a bad idea in the first place, on top of which we made all our concessions up front. Obama and Kerry knew it was a bad deal, and made it almost worse to pull out. Trump has decided that he can force his will onto other nations by doing so anyway, and he might be right — or at the very least, he might have decided that we don’t have much to lose, given Iran’s clear indication to pursue regional hegemony in the years since the deal.
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