Call it America’s new way of war. Forget aircraft carriers, stealth fighters and cruise missiles. Think instead about dollars, silicon chips, digital data — and sanctions, embargoes and blacklists. Nations have often employed economic coercion. Donald Trump has gone three steps further. He has merged America’s economic policy with its national security strategy.
In one of my previous articles, “How U.S. Sanctions Are Hindering Sustainable Development,” I argued that U.S. sanctions are detrimental to Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), and are more often than not counter-productive in achieving their objectives.
Whilst sanctions have been a feature in the U.S. geopolitical toolkit for some time, President Trump’s unilateral, excessive and often broad sweeping sanctions have received much critical attention — from both a humanitarian and a tactical standpoint.
During his term, Trump has most notably enforced further sanctions on Venezuela, Cuba, Iran and Syria.
NSA @robertcobrien just admitted that U.S. has out-sanctioned its ability to inflict more pain on Iranian people.
Time for the US to finally admit it is a #SanctionAddict.
Kick the habit. More economic warfare against Iran will bring the U.S. less—and not more—influence. pic.twitter.com/jgAkE16Yoe
— Javad Zarif (@JZarif) October 26, 2020
Every president has his own style.
In a 2019 interview, Mark Weisbrot, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington D.C, declared the 2017 sanctions as devasting, and the 2019 sanctions even worse than those imposed on the people of Iraq — sanctions which have been condemned by some, not least former U.N. humanitarian coordinator for Iraq Dennis Halliday, as sanctioned genocide.
In the case of Syria, new sanctions under the Caesar act were enacted in June 2020.
Unsurprisingly, these sanctions have been called out as illegal, coercive and cruel as they further contribute to poverty and make it near impossible for Syria to rebuild, impeding the transfer of humanitarian aid.
The imposition and re-imposition of U.S. sanctions against Iran have been highly reported about.
Firstly due to the fact that they have been numerous, and secondly due to Trump’s refusal to lift them during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.
This has had a severe impact on Iran’s ability to respond effectively — with even humanitarian imports unable to get through to Iran.
The U.S. withdrawal from the JCPOA deal has been damaging too — undermining the value of multilateral diplomacy by sending a clear message that the U.S., if so chooses, will exit agreements of great magnitude, something Trump has demonstrated on more than one occasion.
This has since been followed up by an arrogant and almost farcical attempt to initiate a “snap-back” of U.N. sanctions despite having exited the deal.
So, it is little wonder why Trump has been given the title “sanction addict” The last two years, true to character, Trump has shown no willingness to reflect on his approach and this October the consequences of this were laid out plain and clear by his national security advisor, Robert O’Brien who said, “One of the problems we have with Iran and Russia is that we have so many sanctions on those countries right now that there’s very little left for us to do.”