Photo: President Rouhani chairing the cabinet session. Credit: President's website - Photo: 2018

U.S. Sanctions Against Iran Raise the Spectre of ‘Black November’ – and More

By Mortezagholi Raissi

BERLIN (IDN) – With  new sanctions, the U.S. wants to make breathing difficult, if not impossible, for Iranians. The sanctions were threatened in May, when President Donald Trump announced that the United States was withdrawing from a 2015 deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPoA), aimed at limiting Iran’s nuclear programme.

The sanctions that existed before the nuclear deal were affirmed three days ahead of a long-announced November 5 deadline for nations to cease importing Iranian goods, particularly oil or face financial penalties. Washington wants countries not to buy a drop of oil from Iran. To ensure that this happens, the Trump Administration will be closely monitoring the first week of November onward.

Against this backdrop, people in Iran are talking about “black November”, in spite of the government shunning no efforts to play down the severity of the situation. People have enough to do cope with serious supply bottlenecks, and the U.S. efforts to curb Iran’s oil exports could affect people’s lives to the point where the government has to fear about unrest. That’s exactly what Washington has decided because, contrary to official statements, the U.S. wants to bring about a regime change in Tehran.

Two weeks before the oil sanctions against Iran became effective, the Trump Administration put more than 20 banks, organizations and several military and paramilitary units under punitive measures. If one takes into account the previous sanctions, things would become chokingly tight for Iran.

Nevertheless, revolutionary leader Ayatollah Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani are trying hard to play down the dangers and demonstrate that the government is in a position to ensure the security of the country, also by by way of removing the holdups in supplies.

Rouhani says the sanctions against Iran are not new: “We will overcome the difficulties this time as well.” The President of the Islamic Republic told a gathering of scholars and students in Tehran: “We know that America is trying to overthrow the regime in Iran.” He added: “The team that governs America today is the worst team against Iran stands.

He went on to say that the Trump team began with a psychological warfare and then moved on to economic warfare to prove that the government of Iran is unable to fulfil people’s needs and, in the end, underline that Islamic rulers are unable to solve today’s problems.

Shortly after his speech, in which he described both the domestic and international difficulties of the country, Rouhani reshuffled his cabinet. This was seen as a sign of a new commonality between the government and opposition, in particular of cooperation in parliament.

The commanders of the Revolutionary Guards, military, paramilitary, armed revolutionary units, with whatever title at home and abroad, have been asked to damage American interests wherever and whenever necessary. Such slogans are being repeated. Ayatollah Khamenei has given orders to religious and revolutionary leaders not to bow to the enemy and defend the country with all their might.

It seems that despite its public postures the leadership of Iran has realized the seriousness of the situation. Ayatollah Khamenei received the chairmen of three forces, namely government, parliament and justice, underlining the pressing need for saving the country and preserving the Islamic system.

The rulers in Iran are persisting in their efforts even after the international monetary and economic institutions have certified that Iran is in a miserable, even dangerous situation. Given general dissatisfaction and disregard for human rights, Iran is threatened with strikes and insurgency all over the country.

Notwithstanding all uncertainties, European Union’s High Representative Federica Mogherini and Foreign Ministers Jean-Yves Le Drian of France, Heiko Maas of Germany and Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt of the United Kingdom as well as  Finance Ministers Bruno Le Maire of France, Olaf Scholz of Germany and Philip Hammond of the United Kingdom have issued a joint statement on November 2.

They deeply regret the further re-imposition of sanctions by the U.S., in the aftermath of Washington’s withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which they regard as “a key element of the global nuclear non-proliferation architecture and of multilateral diplomacy, endorsed unanimously by the UN Security Council through Resolution 2231.”

This agreement, they declare, is crucial for the security of Europe, the region, and the entire world. The JCPoA, they say, is working and delivering on its goal. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has confirmed in twelve consecutive reports that Iran is abiding by its commitments under the Agreement.

While expecting Iran to continue implementing all its nuclear commitments in full, as set out by the JCPoA, the joint statement notes that the deal also provides for the lifting of international sanctions in order to have a positive impact on trade and economic relations with Iran, but most importantly on the lives of the Iranian people.

“It is our aim to protect European economic operators engaged in legitimate business with Iran, in accordance with EU law and with UN Security Council resolution 2231,” the EU representatives assure.

As parties to the JCPoA, they say, they have committed to work on, inter alia, the preservation and maintenance of effective financial channels with Iran, and the continuation of Iran’s export of oil and gas.

On these, as on other topics, they say, their work continues, including with Russia and China as participants to the JCPoA and with third countries interested in supporting the JCPoA. These efforts, they add, have been intensified in recent weeks, particularly those underpinning the European initiative to establish a Special Purpose Vehicle on which they are proceeding with work to set up .”This will enable continued sanctions lifting to reach Iran and allow for European exporters and importers to pursue legitimate trade,” the joint statement says.

While the attempts of the EU, supported by Russia and China, are appreciated, in Iran there are doubts about these efforts bearing fruit shortly.

Another front on which Iran has become active is FATF or Financial Action Task Force comprising an international working group that works among other things against money laundering. Until now, FATF has not been accepted by Iran. This has aroused the suspicion that Tehran’s absence from organizations such as the Palermo Convention (the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime) is the reason why Iran does not want to be transparent about financial transactions, in the fight against money laundering and terrorism.

And this against the backdrop of Iran’s connections to groups in the Middle East, particularly in Lebanon, Yemen, Syria and other countries. The U.S., Israel, and Saudi Arabia, regard Iran’s connections as a strong, multi-faceted support for international terrorism, which is considered a major pillar of Iranian political and religious influence across the region.

Iran certainly wants to avoid calling the groups like Hezbollah in Lebanon terrorists. For Iran, such groups are freedom fighters who must be supported even in the interests of Islam. This perspective makes Iran’s cooperation with FATF rather difficult. In fact, Iran was blacklisted by the FATF, but was temporarily removed from the list until it became clear whether the current efforts of the Rouhani government and parliament to join FATF would succeed.

In view of the current situation following the sanctions in November, Khamenei, who has given the go-ahead for the accession to FATF and said he would not mind if the parliament approves. The last instance is the Guardian Council, which has to approve of the decisions of the Parliament. “It is eagerly awaited whether this body would really support the project that is not quite in the spirit of Khamenei,” a knowledgeable source said. [IDN-InDepthNews – 03 November 2018]

Photo: President Rouhani chairing the cabinet session. Credit: President’s website

IDN is flagship agency of the International Press Syndicate. –

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