Today the “president” announced sanctions on the Ayatollah Khomeini, who died thirty years ago. In response, Iran’s current president, Hassan Rouhani. described Donald Trump as being “afflicted with mental retardation.” I can’t argue.
The new sanctions are actually against the current supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and other top officials. No one who understands Iran thinks the new sanctions make sense.
Under the sanctions, any foreign financial institutions that provide significant “financial services” to any of the Iranian officials would face U.S. penalties.
Trump announced the measures Monday, which U.S. officials said came in response to the downing of a U.S. Navy surveillance drone over the Strait of Hormuz last week. The sanctions also targeted senior commanders of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, including those the Treasury Department said were involved in shooting down the drone, a RQ-4A Global Hawk.
Khamenei does not have financial accounts outside of Iran, so this is meaningless to him. Whether other officials have foreign bank accounts I do not know. The Trump Administration is, apparently, trying to get Iran to negotiate another arms agreement. Trump famously tore up the arms agreement already in place that everybody but him said was working just fine. See Juan Cole for commentary on that.
After Iranian officials tossed more cheap and well-deserved insults at Trump, he got very huffy and tweety.
….Iran’s very ignorant and insulting statement, put out today, only shows that they do not understand reality. Any attack by Iran on anything American will be met with great and overwhelming force. In some areas, overwhelming will mean obliteration. No more John Kerry & Obama!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 25, 2019
Does anybody believe Trump’s threats any more? Lately that’s all he does — issue taunts with no follow-through. New tariffs on Mexico! Big deportments last Sunday! Strike ordered on Iran! Then rescinded. Not that I want any of those things to happen. But I thought the first rule of being a tough guy is to not issue threats you aren’t willing to carry out.
When Trump took office, we had an agreement, painstakingly negotiated with Great Britain, France, Germany, the European Union, Russia, and China to restrain the Iranian nuclear program, an agreement that, by all accounts, was doing exactly what it was supposed to do.
Armed with no apparent grasp of what the agreement consisted of other than the fact that it was negotiated by the Obama administration, Trump abandoned it and imposed sanctions against Iran. But the president seems only dimly aware that the hawks within his administration are interested not just in keeping Iran from having nuclear weapons, but also that Iran abandon its strategy for influence in the region and, ultimately, that its regime be overthrown.
Trump thinks that by beating his chest he’ll get Iran to bow down before him and promise never to develop nuclear weapons. But the people around him, who are encouraging him to take increasingly provocative actions, have much more ambitious goals.
Those heads of state of other countries are not, I don’t believe, idiots. They’ve had plenty of time to observe Trump and his vanity and his dithering and his inability to craft even the pretense of a foreign policy. They know he’s a weak and profoundly stupid man. Unfortunately, he’s a weak and profoundly stupid man with one hell of a military and some fire-eating war hawks for advisers.
Trump goes back and forth on things such as ordering military strikes because he’s all impulse and reaction, without any coherent idea about what our long-term goals should be.
Meanwhile, he continues to create hostility and despair wherever he turns his gaze. In Cuba, Trump undid the Obama administration’s policy of opening up ties and encouraging economic development, the result being more misery for Cubans for no purpose whatsoever. Any ability the United States might have had to act as an honest broker between the Israelis and Palestinians is gone. He continues a trade war with China that has so far done nothing but damage the U.S. economy. The leaders of other countries view him as erratic and unpredictable.
Trump seems to think unpredictability is a good thing. When reporters ask him what he’s going to do about this or that, he’ll say something like “You’ll find out.” Like this is an incentive to tune in to the next episode.
Trump’s also making noises about ending our alliance with Japan, apparently because Japan isn’t paying us enough protection money. This would be good news for the people of Okinawa, who have wanted our military off their island for years. Also Trump’s buddy Kim Jong Un would approve, I’m sure. For all we know, that’s where he got the idea.