Zarif: Subjecting construction workers to economic terrorism only manifests maximum failure of “maximum pressure”

November 1, 2019 - 21:2

TEHRAN – Following U.S. sanctions on Iran’s construction sector, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif wrote on his Twitter account on Friday that such moves show the “maximum failure of maximum pressure”.

The U.S. State Department issued a fact sheet Thursday singling out the sale of software used for industrial purposes, raw and semi-finished metals, graphite and coal used in Iran’s construction sector as targets for the new sanctions.

“Subjecting construction workers to economic terrorism only manifests maximum failure of “maximum pressure,” Zarif wrote.

Zarif added, “The U.S. can sanction every man, woman, and child but Iranians will never submit to bullying.”

The Iranian chief diplomat called on the Trump administration that instead of digging itself “deeper” in such efforts, revise its “failed policies” and rejoin the 2015 nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

“Rather than dig itself deeper, the US should abandon failed policies and return to JCPOA,” Zarif suggested.

“The U.S. can sanction every man, woman, and child but Iranians will never submit to bullying,” Zarif says.

In its fact sheet, the State Department said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had determined Iran's construction sector was controlled directly or indirectly by Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC). 

The U.S. has previously imposed sanctions on a number of Iranian business companies and networks on the pretext of being tied to the IRGC after blacklisting it as a “terrorist” organization earlier this year. The IRGC is an official branch of the Iranian armed forces.

Also on Thursday, the State Department announced a separate batch of sanctions against what it described as the sale of “strategic material” being used “in connection with Iran’s nuclear, military, or ballistic missile programs.”

The State Department listed the sanctioned material as “stainless steel 304L tubes, MN40 manganese brazing foil, MN70 manganese brazing foil, and stainless steel CrNi60WTi ESR + VAR.”

The embargoes mark the latest round of Washington’s sweeping sanctions against Iran after the U.S. government unilaterally pulled out of the 2015 nuclear deal and reimposed sanctions lifted under the agreement last year.

The U.S. has imposed a number of additional embargoes since. 

Earlier this week, a Riyadh-based group composed of the U.S. and its Arab allies introduced sanctions against 25 economic entities on the pretext of allegedly supporting the IRGC and Lebanon’s Hezbollah.

Humanitarian implications

Washington’s sanctions against Iran have had widespread negative effects on the lives of ordinary Iranians, pushing up commodity prices and denying Iranians essential imported goods such as certain medical drugs.  

The new sanctions announced Thursday are set to make it further difficult for average Iranian households to attain affordable housing after Washington’s coercive measures destabilized Iran's real estate market last year.

They come a week after the U.S. Treasury announced “a new humanitarian mechanism” to allow “permissible trade” to support the Iranian people while maintaining its “maximum pressure” policy against the Iranian government.   

The announcement was received with much skepticism in Iran which dismissed the purported humanitarian channel as “a farce” and a trap to target more Iranian companies and entities.  

The new method, disguised as the humanitarian channel, asks foreign governments and banks to report on a monthly basis to Washington any link they have with Iranian financial institutions.

Many experts have said that the regulations will only enable the U.S. to pursue sanctions against the country with more efficiency, further imperiling “permissible trade” with the country.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin was the first U.S. official to ride roughshod on the purported humanitarian channel on Monday when he pledged to increase sanctions on Iran after meeting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem al-Quds. 

Netanyahu called on Washington to impose additional sanctions on Iranians, instead of facilitating humanitarian trade, in order to “make the availability of cash more difficult for them.”

At a joint news conference, Mnuching said then the US administration “will continue to ramp up more, more, more,” adding, “We are not doing this to hurt the people of Iran.”  

Last November, however, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said it was in Iran’s best interests to toe the line and listen to Washington or else its people would pay the price.

Pompeo told BBC Persian that Iranian officials had to “make a decision that they want their people to eat.”

The Treasury said on Wednesday the U.S. and six Persian Gulf countries - Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE - had agreed to jointly impose sanctions on 25 corporations, banks and individuals allegedly linked to Iran’s IRGC and Lebanon's Hezbollah.

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