The US anti-Iran sanctions strike again. Not counting the renewed sanctions that came back in force following the US withdrawal from Iran nuclear deal (JCPOA), US officials have also imposed a number of new ones in recent weeks. In late 2018, the UN International Court of Justice (ICJ) ordered the United States to stop the sanctions, as judges in The Hague unanimously ruled that the sanctions on some goods breached a 1955 friendship treaty between Iran and the US. Trump’s administration yet cares very little about international law and agreements. In response to the ICJ decision, United States withdrew from the mentioned bilateral agreement, as well as from the optional protocol under the 1961 Vienna Convention of Diplomatic Relations. Shortly afterwards, new wave of anti-Iran sanctions followed.
First, at the end of March, the US Treasury imposed new sanctions on a network of banks, companies and individuals spanning across Iran, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates, claiming they all belong to the IRGC’s support network. Two weeks later, Tehran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has been designated a foreign terrorist organization by the US Department of State. The move is understandable given the IRGC’s counter-terrorism role in the region and the US pervasive frustration with the defeat of their mercenaries, the true terrorist butchers. The anti-IRGC sanctions themselves are quite ridiculous considering that it is a respectable self-sufficient organization with indigenous weapons, independent of foreign imports or cooperation, as is the case with Saudi Arabia and similar US puppets. Less than ten days after the official designation, the US administration granted important exemptions to new sanctions on IRGC, watering down the effects of the measures.
At the end of June, only four days after IRGC shot down a US RQ-4A Global Hawk surveillance drone in Iran’s airspace over the Strait of Hormuz, Trump targeted Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and other top Iranian officials with sanctions. This sanctions are aimed at denying Iran’s leadership access to financial resources, blocking them from using the United States financial system or having access to any assets in the United States. Taking into account that none of targeted individuals has financial resources or assets there, sanctions are merely symbolic, a pathetic act of revenge for shoot-down of a spy drone. In American propaganda fairy-tales, the Iranian leader may own billions, but in reality he is widely known for a modest life and there’s no trace of anything which could prove otherwise.
Finally, in early August Mohammad Javad Zarif, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Iran, also found himself under the attack of sanctions. “It has no effect on me or my family, as I have no property or interests outside of Iran, thank you for considering me such a huge threat to your agenda,” Zarif tweeted. He further explained that earlier in New York he had been invited to meet Trump in the White House, but turned down the offer despite the threat of sanctions because he didn’t want to participate in Trump’s dishonest public performances. The US explanation for sanctions against Zarif is equally laughable: “Zarif implements the reckless agenda of Iran’s Supreme Leader, and is the regime’s primary spokesperson around the world,” Treasury Secretary said in a statement. “The US’ reason for designating me is that I am Iran’s primary spokesperson around the world, is the truth really that painful?” Zarif responded.
Of particular interest here is that the US regime chose to treat Khamenei and Zarif equally, regardless of their different political views. And without any doubt, these differences in political approaches are result of two different life paths. Khamenei was one of the key figures in the 1979 Islamic revolution and thereafter actively participated in the fight against Iraqi-American aggression. In the same time, 17-year-old Zarif moved to New York within several weeks in the midst of the 1979 revolution, and during the 1980s he attended the US schools and universities, earning PhD in international law and policy. Both his daughter and son were born in the United States.
A nonpartisan politician, never affiliated with any political party in Iran, Zarif belongs to what is popularly called “moderate” in the Western media. These are Iranians who believe that sustainable cooperation with the US is possible and that anti-Iranian hostilities are the responsibility of older individual governments. Even though the US did not make any goodwill gesture at the time, Zarif remained committed to improving ties. He was closely linked with developing the so-called Grand bargain, a plan to resolve outstanding issues between two countries, and in the 2000s he held private meetings with a number of US politicians, including then-Senators. In the mid-2010s, as the Minister of Foreign Affairs in Rouhani’s government, has made tremendous efforts in negotiations with the six great powers to achieve the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). After the nuclear deal was signed in July 2015, Zarif enthusiastically called it as “a remarkable and historic.”
In contrast to Zarif, Iran’s Supreme Leader Khamenei was much more balanced: “The Americans say that they want to negotiate with Iran. Well, it has been several years that they say they want to negotiate with us. But I am not optimistic, because experience has proved that Americans are unreliable, unreasonable and dishonest when they approach us. I do not trust these negotiations and I am not optimistic about them. However, if they want to negotiate, they can do it”, Khamenei said in November 2013.
One month before the nuclear deal had been reached, Khamenei held his prophetic speech: “Despite the fact that I was not optimistic about negotiating with the US, I did not express my opposition to these specific negotiations and I supported the team of negotiators wholeheartedly. The other side – which is an obstinate and deceitful side, which goes back on its promises, is into the habit of backstabbing and has a tendency to do such evil things – may want to confine our country, our people, and our negotiators inside a circle on the details of the issue. I have never been optimistic about negotiations with the US. This pessimism is not based on an illusion – rather, it is based on experience. We have experienced it. If one day you have access to the details of these events and do the writings about these days, you will definitely see how we gained this experience. We have experienced it. Do not trust them. This is because when they have crossed the bridge, they will turn around and make you a laughingstock.”
With the Trump’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal in May 2018, everything Khamenei said proved to be correct. Khamenei’s stances on the agreement hardly fit into the American narrative about “autocrat” that controls all segments of Iran’s political life. He did not believe in the success of the agreement from the beginning and expressed his disagreement in many of his speeches, but still he left the final decision to Iran’s Parliament. In theory, Khamenei has a veto power, but in practice it’s hard to find an example when he used it.
Regarding Zarif, he and other “moderates,” celebrated as pragmatists in the Western media, must have experienced a bitter awakening. On the other hand, those who were referred by the same media as “irrational hardliners,” proved to be realists. The idea that America would change its stance on Iran and sustainable bilateral relationship could be developed, proved to be a pure utopia. Regardless of political stance or position, the US sanctions indicate that Washington will treat all Iranians equally. Supreme Leader Khamenei, Western-educated Zarif, stem cell scientist Dr. Masoud Soleimani, or Iranian child cancer patient, doesn’t make a difference. The same principle applies to the IRGC elite army or Setad, a humanitarian organization which was among the most active ones in saving victims of the recent Iran floods, and participates in developing rare pharmaceutical products. Those who thought that Iranians should change their stance on America are naive, in fact, Americans should go a long way to change their stance on Iran.
Ivan Kesić is a Croatia-based freelance writer and open-source data analyst. He worked as a writer at the Cultural Center of Iran in Zagreb from 2010 to 2016. His article has appeared on the Consortium News, the Anti War, the Strategic Culture, & Mintpress News among the many.