The sanctions’ political aim is to make it harder for the Iranian government to govern and reach its political, military and economic ambitions. But in reality, the sanctions do more harm to the already struggling private sector, which employs a large part of the Iranian workforce, and consequently to average Iranians.
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan’s recent visit to Iran has raised the question of whether Pakistan can be the friend Tehran needs to survive the Trump administration’s growing hostility.
In a series of public and private appearances last week in New York—on the sidelines of a UN preparatory meeting for a 2020 review of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)—Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif made clear that Iran’s patience with the Trump administration and the international community may be coming to an end.
The significant reduction is mostly attributable to the reform of Iran’s draconian drug law that went into force in late 2017. The long-awaited amendment had originally sought to outlaw executions for all nonviolent drug offenses. After legislative battles, the final version did not go so far, but it substantially raised the amount of drugs the suspect was found to possess for a mandatory death penalty. Since January 2018, the Iranian judiciary has largely halted executions for drug offenses as they review the cases of 15,000 convicts on death row.
As another step in President Donald Trump’s May 2018 withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Pompeo’s announcement means that the administration is going further than the sanctions at the height of the pre-JCPOA sanctions regime. The Trump administration will now threaten sanctions against any entity facilitating a significant transaction for the purchase of Iranian petroleum products, and not renew exceptions that expire on May 2 for countries that have previously reduced their purchases of Iranian crude.
Because Hezbollah has enmeshed itself in almost every level of Lebanese government and society, countering its growing strength without harming the integrity of the Lebanese state remains a challenge. Differing but insufficient solutions to this dilemma exist. Israel, for example, prefers collectively punishing Hezbollah and the Lebanese state without distinction, while France opts for virtual inertia against the group to preserve Lebanon’s fragile stability. In the end, either option would only strengthen Hezbollah.
However, a more concrete and perhaps effective challenge to the IRGC may come from an unlikely source: Iran’s usually neutral if not friendly neighbor, Oman.
Already, Canada, like the US, has designated the Quds Force of the IRGC, an elite branch responsible for extraterritorial operations, as a terrorist organization. However, there has been a persistent effort by Canadian conservatives to label the entirety of the IRGC as a foreign terrorist group.
The result is the opposite of the Trump administration’s announced goal in withdrawing in May 2018 from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), to reach a “better” nuclear deal. Re-imposed draconian sanctions were meant to challenge the value of the country’s regional policy in domestic politics, weaken Iran’s deterrence strength and push Tehran to accept political and security trends favored by President Donald Trump and his regional allies—Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
The Trump administration’s response through the State Department, predictably, has been to offer unspecified support to the Iranian people while at the same time sharply criticizing Tehran for environmental mismanagement that exacerbates the severity of the flooding. Setting aside the accuracy of any such criticism, the ham-handed US response to this natural disaster has again exposed the Trump administration’s inability to execute a nuanced policy. It is clear that the “maximum pressure” campaign and policy mindset are harming the ordinary Iranians that President Donald Trump and his surrogates proclaim to want to help.