Donald Trump has now unilaterally imposed sanctions on Iran. But he continues to give Israel a free pass.
As the US-Iran nuclear deal is formally destroyed, little attention is given to the obvious hypocrisy of Washington’s stance toward Israel – the only country in the Middle East with a nuclear arsenal, which gets the opposite treatment to Iran. And that hypocrisy must be stressed, consistently.
On 6 August, the US government announced that it would unilaterally re-impose the sanctions on Iran that had been overturned as part of the Obama-era nuclear deal. The deal had been mutually negotiated and agreed to in 2015 between the US and Iran, along with the UK, Germany, France, Russia and China, and with input from the European Union (EU). The deal spared Iran billions of dollars in sanctions in exchange for agreed limits to its nuclear program.
Trump, however, described it as the “worst deal ever negotiated” during his 2016 presidential campaign. He signaled his intention to withdraw from the pact in May 2018, but had yet to formally re-impose the sanctions until his announcement on Monday. They will take effect from 12.01am on Tuesday 7 August.
European governments were quick to distance themselves from Trump’s move. The EU and foreign ministers of the UK, France and Germany issued a joint statement in response stating that they “deeply regret” his decision. It also issued a “blocking statute” that prohibits companies operating in the EU from complying with the sanctions.
Potential to harm
In addition to a prohibition on the use of US currency – which will render Iran unable to make international financial transactions or purchase oil – the sanctions will also:
- Ban sales of Iranian-made cars and metals.
- Revoke permits for the importation of Iranian carpets and crops such as pistachio nuts (one of the country’s major agricultural exports).
- Withdraw licenses allowing the purchase of US- and European-made planes and aircraft parts.
Needless to say, taken together they are certain to cause great harm to Iran’s economy and suffering to its people.
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Washington is engaging in its standard posturing, claiming that the sanctions are predicated on an altruistic concern for Iran’s people. But while it is true that the country has seen a degree of protesting over economic woes and generalized civil unrest, Washington’s motivation is, in fact, coercive.
Trump administration officials have admitted that the desired outcome is to apply pressure on Tehran in the hope that it would rather renegotiate on less favorable terms than suffer the consequences of such crippling punitive measures.
On the same day, national security adviser John Bolton claimed that the move does not represent a US attempt at regime change, claiming that it rather seeks just “behavioral change.” But even some US allies, including two European diplomats involved in negotiating the sanction re-imposition, see this as merely a code word meant to obscure Washington’s true intentions.
The brazen hypocrisy of this latest attack on Iran is crystal clear – particularly when contrasted with the sycophantic treatment dealt to the only country in the region that actually does have a nuclear arsenal.
Israel is estimated [pdf, p2] by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute to have about 80 nuclear weapons. Yet not only is it not sanctioned by the US in any way whatsoever – it has actually received billions of dollars in military aid. This also makes it the largest [pdf] cumulative recipient of US aid since World War II.
This nuclear arsenal is only known about thanks to whistleblower Mordechai Vanuna, a former technician at Israel’s Dimona nuclear research centre. He leaked information to the Sunday Times revealing its clandestine build-up of a nuclear arsenal. Vanuna spent 18 years in prison, 11 of which were in solitary confinement, for this act of bravery.
What makes this double standard all the more outrageous is the fact that the US reportedly cut a secret deal [pdf] with Israel in the late 1960s which enabled it to build the arsenal in the first place. In exchange for an Israeli pledge not to test its weapons or publicly acknowledge that it had them, the US would stop weapons inspections and not pressure Israel into signing the Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Israel has continued to flout treaties governing nuclear non-proliferation and to refuse weapons inspections since that time. But there’s no evidence to suggest that Iran has failed to comply with treaties and inspections or broken any of the terms of the Obama-era deal.
Former Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein pointed out this double standard earlier this year in a widely shared tweet:
Let's get this straight:
Israel accused Iran of having a secret nuclear weapons program. ❌
Israel has a secret nuclear weapons program. ✅
Iran complies with all treaties and inspections. ✅
Israel complies with none. ❌
Who’s the nuclear outlaw here?https://t.co/zVmWHsHa9t
— Dr. Jill Stein🌻 (@DrJillStein) May 3, 2018
And days earlier, Stein had pointed out the absurdity of Israel claiming that Iran is the one that wants war given that the US has surrounded it with military bases:
Netanyahu said Iran wants to take over the world, but forgot to share this critical piece of evidence: pic.twitter.com/wiysC2TmhH
— Dr. Jill Stein🌻 (@DrJillStein) April 30, 2018
Region-wide ban proposal
International organizations have tried to establish a region-wide nuclear arms ban for the entire Middle East. Yet Israel remains the recalcitrant party. Since Israel is openly hostile to Iran, Tehran has taken the view that (given Israel’s own refusal to give up its arsenal) it must itself develop a stockpile to ensure its safety. This is a perfectly reasonable position to take based on the principle of deterrence through threat of mutually assured destruction.
Ironically, this is exactly the principle that the US bases its own holding of a nuclear arsenal on. Yet it wishes to deny it to Iran while enabling Israel to be the only country in the region with nuclear weapons capacity.
Clearly, this is another example of the Trump administration taking the already highly hypocritical and suspect foreign policies of the US and making them even more extreme and outrageous. It’s also another example of his government becoming ever further alienated from more moderate allies like those in Western Europe in favor of rogue criminal states such as Israel and Saudi Arabia.
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