This article was originally published by Al Arabiya English
Less than four weeks after the U.S. administration imposed the first round of sanctions on Iran, we are already witnessing a flood of international companies suspending their business plans with Tehran.
The Trump administration now needs a strong public relations campaign to explain to the world and the Iranian people how these sanctions specifically target the ruling regime and actually benefit the people in their struggle for freedom against the ruling clerics. The rest is on the shoulders of Iranians themselves.
It is important to remember that the Obama administration also imposed crippling sanctions back in 2012. While enjoying international support, those sanctions unfortunately led to negotiations resulting in a highly flawed 2015 Iran nuclear, permitting the Iranian regime to continue its domestic crackdown, wreak havoc across the Middle East, and continue advancing ballistic missiles and secret nuclear ambitions in uninspected sites.
The Trump administration has based its policy on strongly imposing these sanctions without the loopholes we have witnessed placed by previous U.S. administrations. The goal is to levy unprecedented economic pressure on the Iranian regime.
Executing sanctions should not be considered an easy task. The Obama administration began its efforts back in 2010 and was able to gradually gain the cooperation of Russia, China and various Asian countries. Similar sanctions spearheaded by the U.S. Treasury Department also date back to the Bush administration.
Managing sanctions and coordinating with banks and major companies demands a wide-ranging effort. For example, a money-laundering network in Georgia was run by three individuals linked to Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) who had established relations with banks, launched flight companies and were busy whitewashing money through South Korea, Georgia and other countries.
It took three years to bust this network. During the Trump tenure, however, a firm policy from the White House is making all companies across the globe realize their interest lie in cooperating with Washington.
Considering the vast bureaucratic apparatus of the U.S. government, the appointment of Brian Hook as the U.S. Special Representative on Iran to coordinate sanctions on Tehran is a very positive step forward.
Iran took advantage of the Obama years when dozens of loopholes and various methods were used to bypass U.S. sanctions, then directed by the Treasury Department.
Hook is leading this effort through the State Department and considering the fact that he was an advisor to Amb. John Bolton at the United Nations, it appears Hook will be in coordination with the National Security Council.
Iran is busy
Currently, Tehran has campaigned its state-run propaganda machine inside Iran and lobby groups throughout the West in a widespread campaign against the sanctions. They’re claiming the Iranian people are suffering due to the sanctions and millions will die.
While the U.S. Treasury Department specifically explains sanctions do not target food and medicine exports to Iran, the regime and its lobbyists continue to lie in this regard, claiming the people do not have access to the medicine they need.
As a reminder, during the Obama years arrangements were made for Dennis Ross, former U.S. ambassador to Israel, to be appointed as a special representative on Iran. However, Tehran launched a campaign against this initiative through the known Iran lobby group, the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), and others in the U.S. As a result, Obama appointed John Limbert, who focused on even what phrases should not be used, banning the word “regime” in regards to Iran.
More recently, the Iranian regime’s malign efforts in social media have been exposed, revealing how a misleading effort through a few hundreds accounts across Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and others sought to distribute fake news and promote a pro-Iran mentality in the minds of mostly uninformed readers.
The Trump administration has through various messages indicated their stance alongside the Iranian people. This is good, but more is needed. Mr. Hook explained in his remarks that Washington does not intend to cripple Tehran’s economy for the sake of it. The goal is a comprehensive strategy supporting the Iranian people. This is where Washington should place in more resources.
The people’s interests
Coordinating measures to implement increasing pressure on the Iranian regime is Hook’s mission and this is welcomed. U.S. sanctions should be portrayed as in support of the broader and ultimate interest of the Iranian people.
The Trump administration has placed forward 12 conditions, described by Sec. Mike Pompeo, and seeks to correctly enforce maximum pressure on Tehran. These measures aim to achieve the following:
- Distance U.S. policy from appeasement
- Tackle Iran’s meddling in the Middle East in coordination with U.S. allies
- Implement oil sanctions, beginning in early November
- Seek a major change in behavior from Tehran
If the Iranian regime actually implemented Pompeo’s 12 conditions the Iranian people would not be suffering to such an extent in the past 40 years. Tehran simply cannot forgo its meddling in the Middle East, nor its nuclear program or ballistic missile drives.
Such a position from the U.S. State Department is unprecedented in the past 40 years. We must not forget this is a department that focuses on establishing relations. And we must also not forget how the Soviet Union crumbled under similar pressures.
All the while, despite the Trump administration’s emphasis on a policy of behavior change and not regime change, the Iranian regime and its lobbyists abroad have gone mad mirroring this approach to the pre-Iraq war policy of 2002.
Washington can galvanize its actions through its active support of the Iranian people’s struggle for freedom. A crippling blow to Tehran’s regime can come through the official recognition of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) as the voice of the Iranian opposition and voice of 80 million people seeking regime change.
The Iranian people do not expect Washington to topple the clerical regime in Tehran. This is a duty on their shoulders. And we’re up to the task.