America Restores Sanctions on Iran While Allies Fight Back

Here is the most irresponsible thing that the Trump administration did today.

The Trump administration on Monday moved to reimpose the first round of Iranian trade sanctions that had been suspended under the 2015 nuclear agreement, distancing itself from every other country that signed the agreement and putting the accord’s future in jeopardy.

U.S. officials said the sanctions that have been waived for the past two and a half years will be snapped back officially on Tuesday morning at one minute past midnight.

From that moment on, Iran will be prohibited from using U.S. dollars, the primary currency or international financial transactions and oil purchases. Trade in metals and sales of Iranian-made cars will be banned. Permits allowing the import of Iranian carpets and food, such as pistachios, will be revoked. So will licenses that have allowed Tehran to buy U.S. and European aircraft and parts — a restriction that comes just days after Iran completed the acquisition of five new commercial planes from Europe.

Those who don’t comply could be subject to “severe consequences,” President Trump said in a statement. That was directed at European governments that expressed regret over the U.S. sanctions, and vowed to protect their own companies from legal reprisals by the U.S. government.

And here is how that is going over with our allies:

The European Union and U.S. allies Britain, France and Germany announced what they called a “blocking statute” to take effect Tuesday that would attempt to nullify U.S. legal action against European firms doing business with Iran.

“We are determined to protect European economic operators engaged in legitimate business with Iran, in accordance with EU law,” a joint statement said.

“The JCPOA is working and delivering on its goal, namely to ensure that the Iranian programme remains exclusively peaceful,” said the statement, which repeated the commitment of the remaining parties to the deal to keep financial channels open and continue Iran’s export of oil and gas.

“Preserving the nuclear deal with Iran is a matter of respecting international agreements and a matter of international security,” they said.

The International Atomic Energy Agency, which is charged with monitoring Iran’s nuclear program, has said in 11 consecutive reports that Tehran remains in compliance with the commitments it made.

I hope it’s obvious that American leadership is catastrophically undermined when our allies begin taking legal and legislative action in order to get out of compliance requirements with our sanctions. That shouldn’t be a hard concept to understand. We are no longer leading any kind of alliance. We’re just doing whatever Donald Trump wants to do, and what he wants to do has no support from our allies.

Nonetheless, this will put more pressure on the regime in Tehran and serve to discredit their promises on the economy. The value of the rial has been collapsing and many of their problems were supposed to be behind them. Widespread civil unrest could develop, although in more general terms this move weakens the U.S. and strengthens Iran while doing real damage to international commitments to anti-proliferation efforts.

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly and the main blogger at Booman Tribune.