What’s the Endgame of Sanctions?

Stafford Clarry, Senior NCF Member in Northern Iraq, sends the following comment on moves to further increase US sanctions on Iran:

It’s hard to imagine the purpose of increasing sanctions being other than pure punitive. What exactly are they expected to achieve? 

If Iraq could survive thirteen years of UN-authorized international sanctions, Iran can likely survive, under its current leadership,  unilateral sanctions for at least a few more years.

Arguably, Iran has far more capacity than Iraq had to withstand economic sanctions that may only irritate the Iranian leadership but deeply hurt ordinary Iranians.

What is the endgame expected by increasing sanctions – chaos, anarchy, the implosion of Iran?

What are the criteria that must be met in order for sanctions to be lifted? What are the measurable behaviors to be observed?

It’s hard to imagine that whatever the criteria and observable behaviors may be, they cannot be attained without regime change. If that is the case, how will the regime change process play out and what and who will replace it?

Regime change in Iran could result in another deadly dystopian country like Iraq, which, nearly seventeen years after regime change, has yet to become a “normal” country peacefully pursuing a prosperous future for all its citizens.

The JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action)

The JCPOA (or Iran Nuclear Agreement) was negotiated to keep Iran from possessing nuclear weapons for at least 15 years, with some provisions being extended for longer periods. Monitoring centrifuge production would continue for 20 years, monitoring of uranium mines and mills for 25 years, and International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) enhanced access indefinitely.

Other than Iran, the JCPOA was signed by China, France, Germany, Russia, UK, and US. These other signatories are known as the P5+1 (five permanent members of the UN Security Council + Germany), and EU+3 (EU members France, Germany, UK + China, Russia, US).

Unilateral withdrawal from the JCPOA and application of severe economic sanctions are unlikely to generate regime change in Iran as initially promoted and not (yet) taken off the table, despite words to the contrary. All other signatories to the JCPOA continue to support the agreement.

What would be gained if all six signatories withdrew from the JCPOA? The 2018 White House withdrawal from the JCPOA plus the other five signatories, if they withdraw, would cut short all provisions of the agreement from a minimum of 15 years to less than five years!

Michael R. Pompeo statement on 10 January

MICHAEL POMPEO: Today, the United States is taking a series of actions in response to Iran’s attacks against U.S. forces and interests, and to deprive the Iranian regime of revenue to conduct its violent foreign policy. We will continue to hold individuals and entities accountable for supporting the Iranian regime’s many fronts of terror.

We are sanctioning eight senior Iranian leaders, including Ali Shamkhani, the Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, Gholamreza Soleimani, the Commander of the Basij, and six other senior officials pursuant to Executive Order 13876 (E.O. 13876) for being appointed by, or acting for or on behalf of, the Supreme Leader.  These individuals have carried out Iran’s terror plots and campaigns of mayhem across the region and are complicit in the recent murders of around 1,500 Iranians protesting for freedom.

The Iranian regime exploits revenue from its metals industry to fund its destabilizing activities.  Accordingly, the Department of State is sanctioning Pamchel Trading (Beijing) Co., Ltd. pursuant to section 1245 the Iran Freedom and Counter-Proliferation Act for transferring 29,000 metric tons of steel from an Iranian firm that is a Specially Designated Global Terrorist.  The Department of the Treasury is similarly sanctioning twenty-two entities and three vessels pursuant to E.O. 13871, for operating in the iron, steel, aluminum, or copper sectors of Iran, and related activities.

The President will also issue an Executive Order authorizing the imposition of sanctions with respect to additional sectors of the Iranian economy, including: construction, manufacturing, textiles, and mining.  This action will significantly expand the United States’ ability to target this regime’s various revenue streams.

As President Trump said yesterday, our sanctions will remain until Iran changes its behavior. The civilized world must send a clear and unified message to the Iranian regime: Iran’s campaign of terror, murder, and mayhem will not be tolerated any longer.  The United States calls on all nations to stand against the Iranian regime’s ideology of terror and to hold Iran accountable for its violence.

Remarks by President Trump on 8 January

THE PRESIDENT:  As long as I am President of the United States, Iran will never be allowed to have a nuclear weapon.

Good morning.  I’m pleased to inform you: The American people should be extremely grateful and happy no Americans were harmed in last night’s attack by the Iranian regime.  We suffered no casualties, all of our soldiers are safe, and only minimal damage was sustained at our military bases.

Our great American forces are prepared for anything.  Iran appears to be standing down, which is a good thing for all parties concerned and a very good thing for the world.

No American or Iraqi lives were lost because of the precautions taken, the dispersal of forces, and an early warning system that worked very well.  I salute the incredible skill and courage of America’s men and women in uniform.

For far too long — all the way back to 1979, to be exact — nations have tolerated Iran’s destructive and destabilizing behavior in the Middle East and beyond.  Those days are over.  Iran has been the leading sponsor of terrorism, and their pursuit of nuclear weapons threatens the civilized world.  We will never let that happen.

Last week, we took decisive action to stop a ruthless terrorist from threatening American lives.  At my direction, the United States military eliminated the world’s top terrorist, Qasem Soleimani.  As the head of the Quds Force, Soleimani was personally responsible for some of the absolutely worst atrocities.

He trained terrorist armies, including Hezbollah, launching terrorist strikes against civilian targets.  He fueled bloody civil wars all across the region.  He viciously wounded and murdered thousands of U.S. troops, including the planting of roadside bombs that maim and dismember their victims.

Soleimani directed the recent attacks on U.S. personnel in Iraq that badly wounded four service members and killed one American, and he orchestrated the violent assault on the U.S. embassy in Baghdad.  In recent days, he was planning new attacks on American targets, but we stopped him.

Soleimani’s hands were drenched in both American and Iranian blood.  He should have been terminated long ago.  By removing Soleimani, we have sent a powerful message to terrorists: If you value your own life, you will not threaten the lives of our people.

As we continue to evaluate options in response to Iranian aggression, the United States will immediately impose additional punishing economic sanctions on the Iranian regime.  These powerful sanctions will remain until Iran changes its behavior.

In recent months alone, Iran has seized ships in international waters, fired an unprovoked strike on Saudi Arabia, and shot down two U.S. drones.

Iran’s hostilities substantially increased after the foolish Iran nuclear deal was signed in 2013, and they were given $150 billion, not to mention $1.8 billion in cash.  Instead of saying “thank you” to the United States, they chanted “death to America.”  In fact, they chanted “death to America” the day the agreement was signed.

Then, Iran went on a terror spree, funded by the money from the deal, and created hell in Yemen, Syria, Lebanon, Afghanistan, and Iraq.  The missiles fired last night at us and our allies were paid for with the funds made available by the last administration.  The regime also greatly tightened the reins on their own country, even recently killing 1,500 people at the many protests that are taking place all throughout Iran.

The very defective JCPOA expires shortly anyway, and gives Iran a clear and quick path to nuclear breakout.  Iran must abandon its nuclear ambitions and end its support for terrorism.  The time has come for the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Russia, and China to recognize this reality.

They must now break away from the remnants of the Iran deal -– or JCPOA –- and we must all work together toward making a deal with Iran that makes the world a safer and more peaceful place.  We must also make a deal that allows Iran to thrive and prosper, and take advantage of its enormous untapped potential.  Iran can be a great country.

Peace and stability cannot prevail in the Middle East as long as Iran continues to foment violence, unrest, hatred, and war.  The civilized world must send a clear and unified message to the Iranian regime: Your campaign of terror, murder, mayhem will not be tolerated any longer.  It will not be allowed to go forward.

Today, I am going to ask NATO to become much more involved in the Middle East process.  Over the last three years, under my leadership, our economy is stronger than ever before and America has achieved energy independence.  These historic accomplishments changed our strategic priorities.  These are accomplishments that nobody thought were possible.  And options in the Middle East became available.  We are now the number-one producer of oil and natural gas anywhere in the world.  We are independent, and we do not need Middle East oil.

The American military has been completely rebuilt under my administration, at a cost of $2.5 trillion.  U.S. Armed Forces are stronger than ever before.  Our missiles are big, powerful, accurate, lethal, and fast. Under construction are many hypersonic missiles.

The fact that we have this great military and equipment, however, does not mean we have to use it.  We do not want to use it.  American strength, both military and economic, is the best deterrent.

Three months ago, after destroying 100 percent of ISIS and its territorial caliphate, we killed the savage leader of ISIS, al-Baghdadi, who was responsible for so much death, including the mass beheadings of Christians, Muslims, and all who stood in his way.  He was a monster.  Al-Baghdadi was trying again to rebuild the ISIS caliphate, and failed.

Tens of thousands of ISIS fighters have been killed or captured during my administration.  ISIS is a natural enemy of Iran.  The destruction of ISIS is good for Iran, and we should work together on this and other shared priorities.

Finally, to the people and leaders of Iran: We want you to have a future and a great future — one that you deserve, one of prosperity at home, and harmony with the nations of the world.  The United States is ready to embrace peace with all who seek it.

I want to thank you, and God bless America.  Thank you very much.  Thank you.  Thank you.

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