Recently, the US treasury, justice and state department announced new Iran related sanctions, designating eighteen individuals and entities, linked to “Iran’s malign activity across the Middle East undermining regional security”. As becomes clear from the announcements (see www.treasury.gov and www.state.gov), the “malign activity” relates to a wide range of issues, like Iran’s ballistic missile program, illicit Iranian actors, transnational criminal activity, military procurement, software theft, production of drones and attack boats, “provocative and destabilizing behavior”, state support of terrorism, human rights abuses, the unjust detainment of US and other foreign nationals and more.
The interesting factor is the highlighting of the violation of “the spirit of the deal”, linking non-nuclear related negative Iranian behavior directly to the nuclear deal. On the one hand Iran was found to be in compliance with the nuclear aspects of the deal. On the other hand Iran was found to be in violation of the non-nuclear aspects. The new concept connects the totality of Iran’s behavior to the nuclear deal by quoting the stated stipulation in the JCPOA “full implementation of this JCPOA will positively contribute to regional and international peace and security”. Thus, all “malign activity” is a violation and transgression of the deal, or at least of the “spirit of the deal”. This of course is in opposition to the previous administration’s approach which made a point of disconnecting the “general malign activity” from the nuclear issue.
As reported in thehill, this split between “the deal” and “the spirit of the deal” should most probably be seen as a result of balancing disgust of the deal (which could have led to its abrogation) with the security consensus that the US should not walk away from the deal at this time.
The press coverage and some analysis of this development are of interest. Although no-one seems to dispute the facts regarding Iran’s malign activity, many neglect to draw the necessary conclusions from this negative activity.
The nytimes for instance seems to report factually, but the title reveals its leaning. The article is titled “Trump adds sanctions on Iran after certifying its compliance with the nuclear deal”, thus implying that there is no justification for the sanctions or for Trump’s decision. Only if you read the article in depth, will you understand further complexity. The npr coverage is even more misleading, when it titles its article state Department certifies Iran’s compliance with nuclear deal, totally ignoring the criticism. Only if one reads the article in full does one pick up on the totality of Iran’s behavior and the question of whether it violates the deal or not.
In final analysis, after all, if Iran’s “malign activity” is not disputed factually, then the non-nuclear related sanctions should be supported, whether the malign activity are a violation of the deal or not.