The US sanctioned Iran’s Foreign Minister on Wednesday, calling Javad Zarif the driving force behind “the reckless agenda of Iran’s Supreme Leader”. Zarif’s designation drew unified reactions from both regime factions with Iran’s President Rouhani saying that it signaled the US did not actually want to negotiate with Iran.
The US said that it intended to sanction Zarif a month ago. Many believe that the reason why it took one month for the Trump administration to sanction Zarif was because of the Foreign Minister’s trip to the US to participate in UN summits. There were talks of attempts by the Iranian regime to open new paths of dialogue during the trip. Some say that the US did not want to seem belligerent while Iran was playing the game of diplomacy. The US wanted to give Zarif the opportunity for diplomacy as a test. He failed the test.
The force behind the US’s “maximum pressure” campaign
Zarif’s designation was the most recent in a long list of sanctions in the US’s “maximum pressure” campaign.
According to Rouhani, the US started the campaign after the nationwide 2018 protests in almost all of Iran’s provinces.
Protesters chanted “down with Khamenei” and denounced both factions of the regime. They called for the downfall of the regime in its entirety chanting “reformers, hardliners, the game is over”.
It was after these protests that the world realized that the regime’s days were numbered and that Iranians did not want the ruling clerics.
The Trump administration then started what it called “the toughest” sanctions against Iran.
Europe’s efforts to save the regime
Though the European Union has been more than critical of the sanctions, it has not and cannot take any steps to counter it.
European leaders have made many statements and even started various initiatives to make it easier on the Iranian regime. However, these measures, such as Instex, Europe’s trade channel for doing business with Iran despite U.S. sanctions, have not been effective in saving the Iran deal. So in truth, there’s lots of talk without any tangible results.
Sanctions and the people of Iran
Many in the west, especially regime apologists, say that US sanctions hurt the people of Iran first and foremost.
It should not come as a surprise that Iranians think otherwise. Of course, regime supporters are portrayed on state-run TV as blaming the current state of the economy on the US, calling Trump their “enemy”.
But ordinary Iranians, who are actually under the most economic pressure, were heard chanting, “Our enemy is right here, they lie when they say it’s America”, in recent protests.
Having lived under the absolute rule of the clerical dictators in Iran, the people of Iran know the clerics for what they are. And make no mistake, they know their enemy. They know that the regime has stolen all that could be stolen from the people. They know that even before the sanctions, many Iranians were living in poverty. They know that their economic woes are the product of rampant corruption among regime officials, especially those affiliated with the IRGC and the regime’s Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei.
One example of such corruption is the Iran Revolutionary Guards Corps Khatam Base.
The IRGC extended its economic hold towards the end of the Iran-Iraq war in 1988 and founded the Khatam-al Anbiya Construction Headquarters and its Cooperation Bonyad. Through these institutions, it became the Middle East’s largest construction company and Iran’s largest contractor for government projects. Almost all government projects were exclusively given to the Khatam group. These projects included the construction of military, nuclear and civilian sites. Khatam hired smaller construction companies to do the work with very little money and pocketed almost all the profits.
The same goes for Khamenei’s many organizations and institutions.
Despite what regime apologists want the west to believe, Iranians know this better than anyone else.
Today, the members of the IRGC, called “Pasdars” in Persian, are the most hated of the regime’s suppressive forces.
The long succession of sanctions, especially the designation of the IRGC and Iran’s Supreme Leader, targets the biggest enemy of the people of Iran. It curbs their lucrative money supplies therefore limits their ability to create proxy wars abroad which wastes the people’s money, and their ability to suppress dissent at home.
This is obviously in the interest of the Iranian people who are crushed by the IRGC and other suppressive forces on a daily basis for the most trivial civil rights, such as the right to dress as they please.
It’s a very simple equation. Pressure on the regime with sanctions = more protests by Iranians who deem the regime as their main enemy = more pressure on the regime by the West as they realize the regime has no future = more Iran protests which will eventually cause the downfall of the regime.
Iran and the “game” of diplomacy
Despite what many regime officials said in unison about Zarif’s designation closing the doors of diplomacy, the regime does not actually want to negotiate. However, it does want to buy time with the game of diplomacy.
Zarif’s designation has now put the regime in a stalemate as its main “player” can no longer play the game.
Zarif and everyone else in the regime are just puppets of the Supreme Leader. What he says, goes, and Khamenei does not want to negotiate.
In statements in June, Khamenei called talks with the US “poisonous”. His solution to the current crisis is the creation of a “Hezbollah” government which means he wants to tighten his grip on the society and the economy.
And true to his word, the regime has started a severe crackdown on civil liberties in the past few months, giving hefty prison terms to women’s rights activists, flogging political prisoners and even asking Iranians to spy on each other’s “immoral” conduct.
This does not sound like a regime that wants to negotiate.
The Iranian regime is not what it was a few years ago. It’s just too weak to actually behave like a “normal” state because it would have to back down from many things that give it its so-called “power”, such as its missile program. Backing down from even the most trivial of things will lead to a chain reaction that would ultimately lead to its downfall.
So, Iran is stalling, and praying that the regime does not topple before the end of President Trump’s first term. They are desperately waiting for a new, “nicer” president who would hopefully be more like President Obama.
Someone should tell them not to hold their breath.
Zarif’s designation and the “illegitimate” regime of Iran
The new sanctions against the regime’s spokesman means that the US thinks that the regime of Iran is illegitimate. This is what Iranians have been saying for decades, only to be brutally suppressed.
For the first time in the past 40 years, the US stands with the people of Iran. This in turn gives hope to ordinary Iranians encouraging them to take to the streets despite the regime’s crackdown.
In the end, it’s up to the people of Iran to end the 40 year reign of the mullahs in Iran.