On Wednesday, President Trump issued an executive order banning the purchase of Iranian copper, iron, steel, and aluminum exports. This further heightened tensions with Iran after the Islamic Republic declared on Tuesday that it would begin enriching uranium in less than two months. The executive order is intended to stop Iran from trading metals, which could be used to make intercontinental ballistic missiles or other nuclear weapons. According to the article, metals make up about 10% of Iran’s exports which explains how they are the 18th largest exporter of steel in the world (Deaux, Bloomberg). Another reason President Trump wants to deny funds from metal exports from reaching Tehran is to prevent the funding of terrorist groups, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and to further hinder military expansion. Since the United States dropped out of President Obama’s 2015 Iranian Nuclear Deal, President Trump has re-imposed a series of sanctions to discourage other countries from doing business with Iran. Since metals as a whole represent Iran’s third largest source of export revenue, it is an ideal target for sanctions. If this fails to work, the administration may go after Iran’s largest source of export revenue, which is its petroleum (Deaux, Bloomberg). In response to these sanctions, Iran has provided other European signatories of the 2015 deal with an ultimatum: if these countries cannot find ways for Iran to engage in trade despite U.S. sanctions within the next 60 days, Iran will abandon the limits on uranium enrichment proposed by the deal. President Trump was critical of the Obama administration because they were not harsh enough with Iran, who has continued to aid violent extremist groups. His administration was intent on not making the same mistake (Deaux, Bloomberg).
This article is applicable to the lesson on sanctions and financial warfare. There are several different reasons that the United States imposes sanctions. One is to frustrate foreign leaders, while another is to hinder bad actors from continuing operations within a target country. The purpose of sanctions is to apply economic pressure on actors or foreign governments to do things they do not want to do, or to deter them from some action. Sanctions have become significantly smarter, however it is still difficult to directly control their effects. In the case of Iran, the United States continues to sanction Iran in order to deter them from continuing their nuclear program. There are several benefits of sanctions that make them worthwhile, but there are also several consequences. Some benefits include deterring unwelcome behaviors, or coercing actors into doing something. Furthermore, targeting business elites is far more likely to enact change than targeting the people, especially in a democratic government. However, there are several consequences. One such consequence is that in autocracies, sanctions typically hurt the people more since the government can simply take their money without any lawful repercussions. Additionally, sanctioned countries often enact sanctions of their own against initiator countries. For countries who do not have large economies that can bear the cost, this is going to have detrimental effects. For example, because the U.S. has imposed so many sanctions on Iran, they might abandon the nuclear deal and begin enriching uranium. I do not think the United States wants this to happen as sanctions are imposed to deter some behavior, however these sanctions are not stopping Iran from continuing with its nuclear program. Furthermore, there is no guarantee that these sanctions will actually hurt the government, since the people will most likely feel the brunt of the economic pressure. Since Iran is an autocracy, it is less likely that these sanctions will produce their intended effects.
This article may be found at: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-05-08/trump-iran-metals.