Amid rising tension between the US and Russia President Donald Trump, on August 2nd, signed the ‘Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act’. Proving, once again, that the United States Government has little interest in negotiations and is instead intent on power grabbing and securing their own financial gain.
The bill adds new sanctions, as well as amends previous ones. It also hinders the current cabinets ability to lift sanctions imposed by the Obama administration. Congress will now have 30 days to review and approve or deny the lifting of any sanctions. Supporters of the bill claim that these strict measures will help ensure the safety of the US and its allies as well as protect US interests.
The new sanctions bill targets three US adversaries; Russia, North Korea and Iran.
Part of the inspiration for the new sanctions comes from the accusation that Russia interfered in US elections. Even the Washington Post admitted that the sanctions bill is “targeting key officials in retaliation for the alleged interference in the 2016 presidential election”. The key word here is alleged. For the US to pass legislation based on allegations alone is reckless, and has little to no effect on bringing about peace and prosperity.
An intelligence report compiled by three US intelligence agencies focuses strongly on the Russian television networks RT, and RT America. One show on the network, ‘Breaking the set’ hosted by Abby Martin, was alleged to have swayed the election. This show, however, last aired in March of 2015, a year before the US primaries even took place.
The report highlights how Kremlin linked news sources had more negative coverage of Hillary Clinton than Donald Trump, failing to note that Hillarys’ political career is stained with incidents of questionable morality and ethics while Trumps political record was essentially non-existent. This also overlooks the fact that many US based alternative and libertarian media sources portrayed Hillary in a more negative light as well.
Additionally, there’s the Trump dossier which alleges that the Russian Government has information that could potentially be used to blackmail him. The dossier was compiled by a London-based security and investigations firm, headed by former British Intelligence officer, Christopher Steele. A man who would have been acutely aware of many of the inaccuracies found in the documents.
The report, which the FBI used to bolster their claim of a need to investigate a connection between Trump and Russia, comes down to thirty-something pages of unverifiable ‘he said that she said that they said….’ rumors and hearsay. The serious consideration and publicity of this ‘dossier’ is much more concerning then the ideas of attempted bribery and ‘sexcapades’ that it presents. This ‘Russiagate conspiracy’ seems to be based in very little fact.
Putting aside the shaky groundwork which supports the belief that the sanctions against Russia are needed, it’s important to note that some of the sanctions harm our allies. For example, the stance taken on the Nord 2 pipeline that currently transports natural gas from Russia to Germany. Cutting this supply would force Germany to import from the US, but at a much higher cost, or wait for energy reforms to take effect in Ukraine.
These self-serving sanctions focus on financial gain for the US while harming relations with Germany and other European countries despite the bills claim of “continue[ing] to oppose the Nord 2 pipeline [because of] its detrimental impact on the EU’s energy security, gas market development in central and eastern Europe, and energy reforms in Ukraine”.
Response to Russian related US sanctions in Europe have not been positive. Jean-Claude Junker, President of the European Union Commission tweeted, “EU must defend its interests even against the #US, if anti-Russian sanctions will hit us, we will react.”
Further investigation into the issue reveals an even deeper seeded corruption. Energy reforms in Ukraine are due to, in part, the 2014 overthrow of the Ukrainian president and ousting of the government. What most people don’t recall is that the revolt began when then president, Yanukovich, backed out of an EU membership agreement at the last minute. This caused a massive uprising in the capital of Kyiv, followed by months of bloodshed throughout the country.
In April of 2014, just two months after the overthrow of the government, Hunter Biden, son of then US vice president Joe Biden was appointed to the Board of Directors of the largest Ukrainian oil and natural gas company, Burisma. (Also Joseph Black, former director of the CIA’s counter terrorism center was appointed a director in February of this year). On the website of the Ukrainian gas company is an article posted just a week before Congress voted on the new sanctions, “Natural Gas Giant Burisma Expands Gas Capacities Aiding Economic Growth in Ukraine.” This article is likely meant to support US claims that these sanctions are pivotal in aiding European economic growth.
Not only was the son of the acting US vice president and a former high ranking CIA officer in charge of a foreign nation’s gas supply; Assistant Secretary of State to European and Eurasian affairs, Victoria Nuland, was caught in a recorded phone conversation with then US ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt, discussing who they wanted to put in charge of the Ukrainian government. In the same phone conversation, she was recorded saying “fuck the EU”. These sanctions are lining the pockets of Hunter Biden and Joseph Black who could, in turn, provide lucrative financial deals with US and European firms once Russian gas is out of the way. This move only further isolates Russia on the world stage making them out to be much more of a threat than they are, much like the issue with North Korea.
The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is an enigma. It is neither Democratic nor a Republic. It is an isolated dynastic dictatorship, with a ruler who teaches the people that he is their god. It is a nation of great struggle, but whatever struggle the people had prior to 1950, it was exacerbated immensely by the US war in Korea.
In the early 1950’s the US launched a bombing campaign on North Korea, destroying 75 percent of the capital city of Pyongyang and claiming the lives of almost three million North Koreans. This has caused the North Korean people to harbor animosity towards the US.
These fears are only compounded by the US’s military presence the world over. Having “nearly 800 military bases in 70 countries and territories abroad -from giant ‘little America’s’ to small radar facilities. Britain, France and Russia, by contrast, have about 30 foreign bases combined,” writes David Vine in Politico. Hitting closer to home for the North Koreans, US and South Korean military officials have announced that they will continue forward with annual exercises rumored to involve the practice of assassinating Kim Jong-un, named Ulchi-Freedom Guardian, despite harsh criticism from Pyongyang. The North Koreans must feel like the walls are slowly closing in.
These actions only inflame an already poor relationship, and just as with Russia, further isolates North Korea on the world stage, more than they have done themselves. Sanctions, while directed at the government of North Korea, will ultimately fall on the North Korean people. This will only cause new and future generations to continue to view the US as a cruel and domineering world power, an empire.
Saturday August 5th, the UN Security Council passed their sanctions resolution, banning the export of North Korean coal, iron, iron ore, and other materials, valued at around $1 Billion, roughly one-third of all exports last year. This is going to hurt the workers, from the miners to shipping who rely on the production and exportation of these goods for job security. This will likely put thousands of North Koreans out of work.
On August 14th, Chinese officials announced that they would also be banning the importation of North Korean coal, iron, iron ore, and seafood. As the BBC reports, China makes up 90% of North Koreas international trade.
These sanctions are meant to cripple the North Korean economy. US Ambassador to the UN, Nikky Haley, doesn’t think the sanctions go far enough. She warns, “we must not fool ourselves into thinking we have solved the problem-not even close.”
The US media continuously reminds us of the cruelty and atrocities the North Korean people suffer under Kim Jong-un, but world leaders are hoping that by hurting his people themselves he will finally agree to negotiate. How can you expect a man who orders the suffering and execution of his own people to give in to the demands of other countries simply because we put them out of work?
If the United States truly wants to negotiate with North Korea, they could begin by lifting all sanctions, pulling all US troops out of South Korea, and ceasing all military drills in the south China Sea. Hasn’t the US participated in causing enough regime changes? Is that not one of the reasons why Iran no longer trust us?
On April 28th, 1951, Iranian populist Mohammed Mossadegh was appointed Prime Minister by the Shah. Within two years Mossadegh had gained a huge following, and had nationalized Iranian oilfields. A move which sent England into a panic because they had a huge stake in the Anglo-Iranian oil company.
As an empire that is trying to control all the world’s resources the US did not appreciate this change. So, British SIS along with the CIA staged a coup. With the help of CIA agent Kermit Roosevelt Jr., grandson of Theodore Roosevelt, Mossadegh, along with his top generals and supporters, were arrested and the Shah, Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, was installed into power. A man the US and Britain believed could be more easily controlled.
Then in 1979, the Iranian Islamic revolution occurred, in which the Shah was ousted as leader of Iran. In his place came Grand Ayatollah Sayyid Ruhollah Musavi Khomeini. He was the founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and became the Supreme leader under the newly drafted constitution.
Almost 40 years later and here we are, Iran struggling to maintain control of its own nation due to years of strife in the region exacerbated by years of US sanctions.
The new round of sanctions is in response to Iran’s ballistic missile program, which the US claims is proof that Iran is developing nuclear weapons, Iranian officials have denied these claims, president Hassan Rouhani said in a press brief that “The Islamic Republic of Iran will always stick to its international commitments.” Rouhani argued that the US is trying to get Iran to back out of the nuclear deal. The International Atomic Energy Agency has stated that Iran’s infractions regarding the nuclear deal are minor.
The Trump administration is demanding Iran let IAEA inspectors in to verify Iran’s compliance with the nuclear agreement, including into military bases which almost no country would agree to without limitations. This move is seen by some as a way for Trump to demolish the agreement, as promised to his constituents, without having to pull out of the deal himself. By putting enough pressure on Iran, he may cause them to back out of the deal first.
The Trump administration is also looking at Iran’s behavior in the middle east, which it claims undermines US interests in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Lebanon. With regards to Yemen, the US has been aiding the Saudi-led bombing campaign, claiming that Iran is a major supplier of arms and aid to the opposing rebel Houthi movement.
Faria Al-Muslimi, writing for The Century Foundation, says these allegations are overhyped, and reports, “The weapons and business Houthis get via the black market from the Yemeni government, for example, are worth more than the funding they get from Iran. Even countries like Oman and Russia currently have more direct leverage over the Houthis than Iran does.”
As for Iraq, after the US invasion, Iran had a great opportunity. The end of the US withdrawal from Iraq in 2011 and the power vacuum that followed allowed Iranian-backed militias to begin moving men and weapons to Syria and Lebanon. Movement to Syria to help the Assad government fight rebel forces, and in Lebanon to continue Iranian support for Hezbollah, a proxy force for Iran to combat Israeli influence in the region. Once the US pulled out, Iran was also free to take advantage of a neighboring economy in shambles. Today most things on the store shelves and building materials in Iraq come from Iran. All this was made possible by US intervention.
Most Americans are sick of war, and that includes trade wars. The US Government needs to abandon its ways of brute force, coercion, and fearmongering. Let diplomacy rain for the sake of not only our country, but the entire world.
Cody Wheeler is an independent researcher and journalist living in Northern California; covering US foreign policy, politics, and economics. He can be reached at Cawheeles88@gmail.com.