By Darius Shahtahmasebi
Last Wednesday, U.S. President Donald Trump signed new sanctions into law against Russia, Iran, and North Korea. The legislation was supported so overwhelmingly in Congress that President Trump’s ability to veto the legislation was rendered completely ineffective.
Even anti-interventionist Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard voted in favor of the bill, once again proving that Republicans and Democrats always find common ground when it comes to beating the drums of war against sovereign nations who have taken very little unwarranted hostile action — if any — towards the United States.
But these are just sanctions, not acts of war, right? There’s nothing wrong with economically bullying other countries into submission over non-compliance with the current global order, right?
Sanctions are always a prelude to war. Though few are aware, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 was arguably in response to America’s attempt to cripple Japan’s booming economy through embargos and asset freezes, ending Japan’s commercial relationship with the United States and provoking the desperation that led to their attack.
In August 1990, the U.S. began a sanctions regime against Saddam Hussein in Iraq. In 1991, the United States invaded Iraq and completely decimated its armed forces, also directly targeting its civilian infrastructure. Following this devastation, the U.S. extended and expanded these economic sanctions on Iraq as further punishment. The U.N. estimated these sanctions led to the deaths of 1.7 million Iraqi civilians, including between 500,000 and 600,000 children.
When Bill Clinton’s Secretary of State Madeleine Albright was questioned on these statistics, she intimated that the price was “worth it.”
In May of 2004, the U.S. imposed economic sanctions on Syria, supposedly over Syria’s support for terrorism and its “failure to stop militants entering Iraq” – a country the U.S. destabilized in the first place. In reality, these sanctions were a response to Syria and Iran’s growing relationship as the two countries had reportedly agreed to a mutual defense treaty that same year.
Syria has been the target of a regime change operation since as far back as 2006, and the U.S. has been openly bombing its territory under both Barack Obama and Donald Trump; the U.S. has already bombed the Syrian government multiple times over the past year. If it had not been for the Russian intervention, the U.S. most likely would have ousted the Syrian government by force before Trump even took office.
Iran has been battling with sanctions for some time now, with the anti-Iranian sanctions regime serving as a smokescreen for regime change in the same manner that Libya, Syria, and Iraq were targeted previously.
In the case of Iran, the underlying motives are quite clear: the renewed set of sanctions is designed to undermine the 2015 nuclear agreement, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Even though the Trump administration is aware that Iran is in full compliance with the JCPOA, Trump has made it an official policy of his own to deliberately erode the deal.
Why would he do that?
“For those who favor regime change or a military attack on Iran (either by the United States or Israel), there is a strong argument to be made for trying this option first. Inciting regime change in Iran would be greatly assisted by convincing the Iranian people that their government is so ideologically blinkered that it refuses to do what is best for the people and instead clings to a policy that could only bring ruin on the country. The ideal scenario in this case would be that the United States and the international community present a package of positive inducements so enticing that the Iranian citizenry would support the deal, only to have the regime reject it. In a similar vein, any military operation against Iran will likely be very unpopular around the world and require the proper international context – both to ensure the logistical support the operation would require and to minimize the blowback from it. The best way to minimize international opprobrium and maximize support (however grudging or covert) is to strike only when there is a widespread conviction that the Iranians were given but then rejected a superb offer – one so good that only a regime determined to acquire nuclear weapons and acquire them for the wrong reasons would turn it down.” [emphasis added]
This paradigm brilliantly explains why hawkish members of Trump’s team are completely opposed to Trump unilaterally derailing the JCPOA: These officials don’t want the blame to rest on the U.S., as it will ignite new tensions within the international community and directly affect the U.S. dollar.
That being said, if the U.S. government continues to undermine Iran with sanctions that target the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) – a very powerful entity within Iran – the U.S. may end up forcing Iran to walk away from the deal, anyway. In that scenario, the U.S. will have the outcome that they long have desired.
North Korea has been on the receiving end of a U.S.-led sanctions regime for years, as well, and the American military is now flying bombers over its airspace, provoking the country to respond in kind.
The only question now becomes: who will Trump set America on a warpath with first: Iran or North Korea?
Trump is reportedly setting the stage for a confrontation with Iran as early as October, having found a new strategy to demonize Iran should the sanctions regime fail to bring about the war he desires before he is due to certify Iran’s compliance for the following 90-day period. This strategy involves Trump tasking his team with setting up spot-inspections at Iranian facilities in the hopes of finding ways that Iran is not complying with the JCPOA.
In the meantime, America continues its unilateral policy of bullying non-compliant states, further isolating itself from its traditional post-WWII allies. For example, Germany does view sanctions that target Russia favorably, as these sanctions hurt Germany’s own economic interests.
Not to mention that American-led sanctions push these defiant countries into the open arms of one another. Iran and Russia just signed a $2.5 billion deal last Monday, going about business as usual and giving Donald Trump the political middle finger in the process.
If the U.S. continues to use its global stranglehold over the financial markets as a tool to weaken other countries, these countries will also have no choice but to ditch the dollar and to seek alternative currencies through which to complete transactions. Not surprisingly, Russia has just responded on Monday by announcing it will seek to end its reliance on the U.S. dollar.
Make no mistake: the U.S. is at the crossroads of its dying status as a global superpower. In order to stay afloat, it has only one real option – to continue down the warpath it has set itself on and confront those countries that seek to rise up in the post-American led international order.
The newly signed sanctions regime is just the beginning, and there will be a difficult road ahead. Cooler heads may ultimately prevail, given the way these sanctions are already being seen to backfire.
It will be almost impossible to sell these wars to the American public and the international community at this stage considering the evidence shows the U.S. is acting rashly and out of order with the rest of the world. However, if the U.S. can provoke Iran or North Korea into doing something regrettable first, the U.S. may finally reward itself with the justification to go to war which it so desperately needs.
And when that happens, all bets will be off the table.