In light of these similarities, and on the heels of the re-imposition of post-JCPOA sanctions on August 7, the National Security Archive’s recent release of declassified cables from President Bill Clinton’s State Department is extremely timely. The documents are particularly useful when compared to President Barack Obama’s efforts a decade later, and illuminate the pitfalls of the Trump approach to Iran sanctions.
The narrative of “futile war” comes to mind when one tries to look at the Iran-Iraq War objectively and retrospectively. Who lost? Or, perhaps one should ask, who gained at the end of this almost decade conflict? The war had many air and ground battles across the 1,000 km border that neither Iraq nor Iran was able to declare permanent victory, or force their will and agenda on the ceasefire which took place on August 20, 1988.
To this date, tens of thousands of Iranian and Iraqi families await news of their shahid-e gomnam, nameless martyrs. These images are a reminder of the sacrifices made thirty years ago and tells of a country in perpetual mourning about that very war. It also speaks to a reality: Each recovered shahid-e gomnam reinforces Iran’s foreign policy today.
Recent nationwide demonstrations in Iran—over the state of the economy, Tehran’s regional activities, corruption, and general disenchantment with the Islamic government—are strengthening the Trump administration’s hopes. But attempts to catalyze religious or ethnic minority protests as a means to transform the Islamic Republic have been a failed US policy for almost as long as the theocracy has existed. This time will be no different. History demonstrates ethnic and religious minorities will neither spur nor lead regime change.
But the stickers on the Badr militamen’s outdated equipment immediately gave their origins away: “Property of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps,” the major branch of the Iranian armed forces. Their history as a veritable Iraqi unit of the IRGC during the war between the two countries was known to all Iraqis.
Earlier this year, Pompeo enumerated a list of demands on Iran so sweeping that they seem designed—like the demands that Austria-Hungary placed on Serbia in 1914—to be rejected. Sixty-five years ago this month occurred the one instance in which the United States was involved in a change of regime in Iran: the ouster in August 1953 of Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh.
The sanctions the administration is re-imposing in two waves (August and November) on Iran are effectively the same sanctions that were in place in 2013 and led to the JCPOA negotiations. Unlike 2013, the Trump administration does not have the full support of the international community and is not bolstered by several United Nations Security Council resolutions imposing sanctions on Iran to generate maximum pressure on Tehran. Instead, the US withdrawal from the JCPOA has caused an ugly split with our European allies who passed a blocking regulation preventing EU companies from complying with US sanctions on Iran and has drawn the ire of the other deal signatories, China and Russia, and key partners–such as Turkey, India, Japan, and South Korea–who went along with US sanctions in 2013.
President Donald Trump’s recent threats to block any companies still engaging with Iran from business in the US are a clear and serious incentive for foreign firms to leave Iran as soon as possible. Despite European Union (EU) efforts to protect companies and neutralize US threats, major European businesses have already announced their departures.
The United States and its Persian Gulf Arab allies may be able to provide India with enough crude to offset any reduction in India’s oil imports from Iran. But will Delhi give in to the Trump administration’s pressure to cut Iranian oil imports completely by Nov. 4, thereby endangering a long-standing relationship with Tehran that goes beyond energy?
The acquittal of the twenty-one activists seemed to confirm that part of the security apparatus isn’t fully intent on cracking down on women’s groups, and that some of their peaceful activities would be tolerated. This message was echoed by Shahindokht Mowlaverdi—a staunch advocate of women’s rights and special advisor to the president on citizens’ rights—who in a recent interview promised that the Rouhani administration was working to ease social, cultural, and political pressures. However, Mowlaverdi also warned that “the [Rouhani] government is not the only entity in charge of these sectors,” referring to the Judiciary and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, who are responsible for much of the crackdowns and pressures over the years.