With over a year of sanctions failing to force Tehran to bend the knee, Washington is now resorting to creatively invoking “weapons of mass destruction” – the very same pretext the US used for the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
What evidence does the US have for Mahan actually proliferating any WMDs? Funny you should ask. US sanctions designations require no pesky evidence, or due process; they are basically imposed and lifted on the sole discretion of Treasury, without any possibility of appeal or redress. That’s a mighty convenient way to bypass the burden or proof.
On Wednesday, the US Treasury Department expanded sanctions against Mahan Air, Iran’s largest privately-owned airline, citing a 2005 executive order by then-President George W. Bush targeting “weapons of mass destruction proliferators and their supporters.”
Mind you, nowhere in the sanctions announcement does Treasury say that Mahan actually transported WMDs. Instead, the airline is accused of flying personnel and weapons for Iran’s “terrorist and militant groups” and thereby “directly contributing” to conflicts in Syria and Yemen.
Meanwhile, the US is sending weapons to “moderate” jihadist terrorists in Syria, and arming and refueling Saudi Arabian and allied forces that have been bombing Yemen to the stone age since 2015. This is never mentioned, of course. Nor is anyone allowed to sanction Washington for any of this, as sanctions only go in one direction.
The point of the sanctions is to scare anyone away from doing any business with the blacklisted companies or individuals. Imagine being sued by the US for violating sanctions against “WMD proliferators” over fulfilling a catering contract, selling airplane parts, or providing ticketing services. It may sound nonsensical, but there you have it.
The State Department has basically admitted to deliberately using the WMD classification to make Iranian companies radioactive to potential business partners.
“Our ability to work with partners overseas to deny Iranian shippers access to ports, or prevent transactions, much more diplomatically persuasive when able to identify WMD or missile proliferation as the gravamen of the complaint,” is how Christopher Ford, assistant secretary of state for international security and non-proliferation, explained it to Financial Times.
That the Trump administration is using the WMD gambit against Iran is particularly ironic, given that demonstrably false accusations about WMDs were used by Bush to invade the neighboring Iraq in 2003, setting off a chain of events that claimed tens of thousands of lives and gave birth to Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS). Donald Trump has long been critical of the Iraq War, and specifically the false WMD charges, only to apparently not mind when the same playbook is used against Iran.
Officially, the sanctions are all about US solidarity with the “Iranian people,” as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo puts it, and punishing the government in Tehran for funding “terrorism” instead of spending money on social programs. It’s a tempting narrative, to be sure – yet no different from the claims of neoconservative hawks in 2003 that US troops will be greeted in Iraq with flowers, like liberators. Except they were met with improvised explosive devices (IEDs) instead.
Again, it is particularly ironic that all of this is happening on Trump’s watch and with his apparent blessing, even as the neoconservatives and Democrats have joined forces in trying to get him impeached. In Washington, it seems, the Swamp always wins.
By Nebojsa Malic