22 August 2018

The Re-imposing of American sanctions against Iran - confidence in the adopted paradigm against North Korea or a way to another Iraq?

Monitorul Apărării şi Securităţii

The White House decided to re-impose the economic sanctions against Iran, fortifying the harsh line adopted by Donald Trump after U.S’s unilateral withdrawal from the treaty regarding the Iranian nuclear file. On short/medium term, it is very likely these sanctions to afflict negatively the intern situation in Iran, as well as the European companies involved in businesses in this country. We will have to see which American’s president true intentions are and which are Teheran's regime options, and, the most important, if these measures will lead to the accomplishment of Washington’s objective or will be an explosive factor of the Middle East situation.

Image source: Mediafax

The U.S. president, Donald Trump, signed (06.08) the executive ordinance to re-impose the sanctions against Iran. “We urge all nations to take such steps to make clear that the Iranian regime faces a choice: either change its threatening, destabilizing behavior and reintegrate with the global economy, or continue down a path of economic isolation” said Trump, quoted by The Associated Press.

Trump said he is open to negotiate a larger treaty which includes the entire regime’s “malign” activities palette (from Teheran), including the ballistic program and the support for terrorism. The Teheran leader refused Trump’s offer, saying that “negotiation under sanctions have no sense”.

The first sanctions part took effect Tuesday (07.08, 04.00 am) and includes stopping the financial transactions and the commodity imports, as well as restrictions regarding the acquisition in the auto and aeronautical sectors.   A second part will take effect in November and refers to oil and natural gases sector, but also transactions made by Iran’s Central Bank.

Are these economic sanctions efficient?

A research team from Peterson Institute for International Economics (PIIE) from U.S. analyzed 200 cases of economic sanctions applications- from the World War I to the beginning of 20th century. The conclusion was that the sanctions had an effect only for a third part of the cases (the number is controversial; other researchers consider that the sanctions were efficient in only 5% of the cases).

Another conclusion is that the sanctions are more efficient when imposed to some democratic states, than to authoritarian regimes, because in a democracy there are more ways for the population to manifest its complaint, hence increases the sanctions over its own govern.

Even if one cannot clearly say that the economic sanctions reach some political objectives, it might noticed that these could seriously damage the economy of the sanctioned countries. Cuba and North Korea are the eloquent examples for this matter, taking in account in both cases the sanctions did not lead to the changing of the political direction of these countries.

On the other hand, for these sanctions to be implement efficiently, it is important for all the given sanctions’ countries to work as a team, to unitary act on this subject.

The Teheran regime will not survive without the oil export

The nuclear treaty in 2015 (JCPOA) could have been the big chance for Iran’s economical relaunch, but economy’s revival was too unassuming. The presidential elections from May 2017 brought Hassan Rohani the second mandate, but the population is far from being enthusiastic with the economic-social progresses promised after the JCPOA. There were protests against the water crisis from some of the country’s cities. The authorities had to release recently two politic hostages. U.S’s withdrawal from the JCPOA and the sanctions already re-imposed afflicted the Iranian economy, which was anyway vulnerable due to damaging corruption and management. From March until now, the Iranian rial lost half of its worth, and the regime seems more and more unstable.  

The sanctions have also effects over European companies

The European companies risk, in their turn, sanctions from Washington if they do not stop making businesses with Iran or, because for some products, they need American licenses, as it happens with the airplanes produced in Europe, but which have elements made in the U.S. There will be afflicted business of the European companies from aeronautical, auto, oil, tourism and air transport industries, railway and naval industries, the pharmaceutical domain etc.

The European officials reacted strongly and are making efforts to protect the European companies involved in businesses with Iran, but also to keep the nuclear treaty from 2015, which the U.S withdraw from in May 2018.

What will be next?

Iran has a step ahead others in region by having the strongest potential to provoke an “explosion” in the Middle East, with multiple consequences at international level. Teheran’s regime internal instability, cause by the economic situation, the social issues, water crisis, living’s deduction and the bringing up of the population’s complaints, but also the foreign relations which are more and more problematical in the region (Israel, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Syria, Turkey etc.), as well as with the U.S, are important factors in this situation.

The optimist scenario would be for the Iranian leaders to accept the negotiations with the U.S, as a sanction and the diplomatic isolation’ consequences. The Iranian regime could make concessions regarding what Washington considers Iranian ill-fated influence in the region, especially the support Teheran regime offer to Damask. On the other hand, an exacerbation of the internal situation, by reproducing the sanctions, would create a regime change and a reorientation of Iran in the direction that Washington wants. Until 1979, the check’s regime from Teheran was close to U.S. A comeback to that situation could be very useful for the foreign American policy in the Middle East.

In a pessimist scenario, the sanctions could augment the tensions between Washington and Teheran, the Iranian authorities threatening recently[1] (again) that they could block the oil transport through Hormuz Straight. Such an evolution starts to be more and more evocated in the political statements, interviews, analyses and comments coming from Iran or about Iran.

Even if not as more scaring as the North-Korean nuclear bomb, an eventual blocking of the Hormuz Straight by Iran could be one of the strongest actions Teheran regime will be able to take (according to some statistics, through Hormuz move between 20 and 40% from world’s oil). Such an evolution would be Iran’s revenge against the American sanctions and the prohibiting the Iranian oil exports. On the other hand, such an evolution would be president’s Trump perfect reason and a plausible motivation to military hit Iran, alone, or probably, throughout an international coalition.

It should consider also other factors in this scenario: Russia’s hostile reaction, the opposition of American’s society majority against other big war, and the lack of an occidental consensus too.

What does Trump want?

Does president Trump need a war and a significant military success to approach with bigger chances the electoral campaign in 2020? Does he acts like a consequence of the success he had with North Korea?

Trump’s strategy regarding Iran seems focused especially on two directions: coercive diplomacy, by re-imposing the economic embargo and the increase of social pressure over Teheran’s regime, and the commitment from a force position in the eventual negotiation with Iran. In this context, a military conflict is less probable. Still, to successfully defeat Iran with an economic embargo, the U.S will need Saudi Arabia’s and Russian Federation’s support, countries which should increase the oil production so it will not affect barrel’s price.

Regarding the dialogue from a superior position, this strategy was already checked in the relation with Kin Jong-Un, North Korea’s leader, wherewith Donald Trump changed a series of tough retorts, to get then to a consensus (we will have to see if it will be a long-term agreement or not).


For the moment, Trump’s availability to commit in new negotiations with Teheran seems to indicate that the American president does not want a classical conflict with Teheran, military, but one to lead to a double pressure, internally and externally too, where the calm voices to be available to renegotiate a treaty with the U.S, on some provisions basis.  Such an evolution would fortify his position as strong leader, capable to solve foreign policy issues, in order to gain electoral capital for the 2020 elections (unlike 2016, when president’s main approached subjects focused on internal policy). We will have to wait for seeing if the approach of the American president will have success.

[1] Guardians of the Revolution (elite forces of Iranian army) announced on Sunday (05.08) the deployment in the anterior days for some important military exercises in Persian Gut and in Hormuz Gut, with the participation of 100 ships. The American officials confirmed an increasement of Iranian ships activity in the area, but there were not noticed ampleness maneuvers.