WASHINGTON DC (Kurdistan 24) – White House National Security Adviser, Amb. John Bolton, outlined on Tuesday the Trump administration’s plan for a “maximum pressure campaign” targeting the Iranian regime.
Speaking in New York to the group United Against Nuclear Iran, Bolton explained that the sanctions the US imposed on Iran in August, after Washington left the nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), have already “had a crippling effect on the Iranian economy.”
“This year, the Iranian rial has lost about 70 percent of its value,” Bolton said. “Iranian crude oil exports have also plummeted dramatically in recent months.”
Other sanctions targeting Iran’s petrochemical and financial sectors are slated to take effect on November 5.
All those sanctions existed prior to the conclusion of the JCPOA. But as Bolton explained, “After November 5, President [Donald] Trump intends to pursue additional sanctions.”
The administration’s aim is “to deny the regime the revenue it needs to funds its destabilizing activities and to force it to make the stark choice between changing its behavior and continued economic disaster,” he said.
Earlier on Tuesday, members of the European Union, which remain committed to the JCPOA, announced that they would establish a new financial system to facilitate transactions with Iran in order to circumvent the US sanctions.
Bolton, however, questioned whether they would actually do so, noting that the mechanism for such a system does not yet exist and no target date has been set for establishing it.
“The European Union is strong on rhetoric and weak on follow-through,” Bolton said, as he warned the EU against actually doing so.
“We do not intend to allow our sanctions to be evaded by Europe or anybody else,” he affirmed.
Bolton also described how Tehran had used the money it gained after the JCPOA was concluded and sanctions were lifted. “Since the deal was reached, Iran’s military budget has grown by almost 40 percent,” he stated.
Then, very significantly, Bolton added, “The mullahs continue to send their funds to terrorist proxies, like Lebanese Hezbollah, Kata’ib Hezbollah, and Hamas.”
Kata’ib Hezbollah is an Iraqi Shia militia, headed by Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, who is also the Deputy Commander of all the militias—known collectively as the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF.)
Until last spring, when Bolton replaced H.R. McMaster and Mike Pompeo succeeded Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State, US officials did not acknowledge that the Iranian-backed militias in Iraq were a serious problem.
Now, US officials do—although it is unclear how they intend to address the issue beyond radically cutting Iran’s revenues. As the Baghdad government pays the salaries of the PMF, the effect on those militias, including Kata’ib Hezbollah, may well be limited.
Bolton also stated that the US is “targeting Iran’s senior leadership,” including “the hardline acolyte of the Supreme Leader, Qasim Soleimani, who oversees the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force.”
“Soleimani fancies himself a cunning and conniving mastermind, plotting and manipulating others,” Bolton affirmed, but “in reality, he functions more as a thuggish Mafia boss, strong-arming military proxies from Tehran.”
But “we will not allow” him “to operate freely,” Bolton continued. “The Trump administration has launched a pressure campaign specifically to counter Soleimani’s insidious design.”
“We are working to choke off his funding,” the White House adviser explained.
Pompeo, addressing the same group, spoke similarly. Pompeo detailed Iranian terrorism, explaining that “in 2012, four Quds Force operatives entered Turkey to attack Israeli targets,” but Turkish authorities disrupted the attack.
Twenty years before, in 1992, as Pompeo noted, Iran used Lebanese Hezbollah proxies to assassinate “four Iranian Kurdish dissidents at a cafe in Berlin”—Sadegh Sharafkandi, Secretary General of the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran (KDP-I) and three others.
Pompeo also described the Iranian regime’s policy toward the Palestinians. Tehran “provides over $100 million each year to terrorist groups like Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad,” he said.
“The Ayatollah claims he cares about Palestinians,” Pompeo continued, “but from 2008 to 2017, Iran gave a total of $20,000 to the UN’s relief agency for Palestinian refugees,” while the US “gave nearly $3 billion over the same period.”
The tone for the speeches of his two senior advisors was set by Trump, himself, earlier on Tuesday, when he addressed the UN General Assembly.
Trump denounced the “brutal regime” in Tehran, saying its leaders “sow chaos, death, and destruction,” as they “spread mayhem across the Middle East and far beyond.”
The administration’s seriousness was, perhaps, signaled most clearly by Bolton’s unusually tough language.
Addressing “the mullahs in Tehran,” Bolton affirmed, “If you cross us, our allies, or our partners, you harm our citizens, if you to continue to lie, cheat and deceive,” then “there will be hell to pay.”
Editing by Nadia Riva