Opinion

From Iran, With Love: 3,500 Dead Americans

ATTA KENARE/AFP/Getty Images

Peter Huessy Mitchell Institute On Aerospace Studies

The U.S. State Department reports that Iran funds and arms more terror groups in the world than any other country.

And since 1979, when the Mullahs seized power, Iran has killed more Americans in five major terror attacks between 1983-2001 than American soldiers were killed in Afghanistan.

Put another way, Iranian sponsored and financed terror has killed 3,543 Americans, slightly more than half of all the American deaths suffered by the United States in the nearly two decades-long wars, primarily in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Specifically, Iranian sponsored and financed major terror attacks by date, location and deaths include the following:

September 11, 2001, World Trade Center; 2996 dead

  • April 18, 1983, Beirut U.S. Embassy; 63 dead
  • October 23, 1983, Marine Barracks, Beirut; 241 dead
  • June 25, 1996, Khobar Towers; 19 dead
  • April 7, 1998, U.S. Embassies in Tanzania and Kenya; 224 dead

Just as we would not trade with Al Qaeda or Hezbollah, Iran’s accomplices in these attacks, it seems reasonable to argue that we should not have any financial relationship with Iran either. Although Americans overwhelmingly opposed the nuclear deal with Iran, (and by implication trading with Iran), not so some of our European and Asian allies, and definitely not the leaderships of Russia and China.

Even RT, the state-owned Russian Television network, got into the act with disinformation, claiming that it is because Americans do not want to go to war with Iran that they oppose the administration’s Iran policies.

RT followed up with the fantastic claim that only since the United States withdrew from the 2015 nuclear agreement known as the Joint Comprehensive Program of Action (JCPOA) with Iran have relations between the two countries deteriorated.  

It is true that after exiting the JCPOA the Trump administration put back in place the economic sanctions against Iran that had been undone by virtue of the JCPOA. The administration also sought to stop all Iranian oil exports with additional sanctions that would go into effect in November 2018.

Some “experts” warned that this would cause oil prices to skyrocket and thus would not be popular with other countries or companies. At the time of the State Department announcement of the sanctions strategy, oil prices ranged from $71–76 a barrel.

As one analyst predicted, “If the State Department sticks to this strategy, Europe, South Korea and Japan will comply. India will likely at least partially comply. China is the wild card.” Today, oil is trading between $69-$76 a barrel, hardly evidence of a price spike from anticipated sanctions against Iran.

What America is doing is quite simple. The US sanctions are what is known as “extraterritorial,” which means companies from regions other than the US, like Europe, that do business with Iran can be barred from doing business with the United States. This also applies to banks and other financial institutions.

As German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas appeared to concede in May, “I don’t see any simple solution to shield companies from all the risks of American sanctions.”

Fortunately, many companies are already siding with the morally correct American position and are ending commercial relations with Iran. Unfortunately, some European countries are still trying to skirt sanctions and set up separate financing and trading relationships with Iran, notably the EU led by elements within the German government.

The good news is that more than 50 international companies “have indicated they will withdraw from Iran” including Total, the French energy company, and car manufacturers Peugeot, Daimler and PSA. German industrial conglomerate Siemens, and major airlines such a British Airways, Airbus SE and Air France, are doing the same

In early June, additional companies of all types announced they would also cease business with Iran despite assurances from several European leaders that the U.S. economic sanctions regime would not be followed.

For example, Maersk, the shipping giant, will no longer ship oil to Iran. General Electric will no longer provide Iran oil and gas infrastructure equipment, and Honeywell will also end its work with Iranian petrochemical company Tabriz. As well, Boeing announced that it would cancel a $20 billion airplane contract with Tehran.

Surprisingly, Lukoil, the second largest Russian oil company, announced it would also no longer pursue joint oil ventures with Iran. India’s Reliance Industries, owner of the world largest oil refining complex, will no longer accept crude oil imports from Iran, and a manufacturer of oil pumps, Dover, will also end all business with Iran.

Swift Disconnect:

Nevertheless, some American business entities are not completely following the administration’s lead. Although not doing business in Iran, both J.P Morgan and Citibank are both remaining non-committal as to whether they will disconnect Iran from the SWIFT financial network on whose board the two banks have seats.

In a strongly worded letter, sixteen top Capitol Hill leaders have urged the banks to disconnect Iran from SWIFT, an act that would effectively “choke Iran’s global financial access”, a move Secretary of Treasury Munnchin says is critical to the success of the administration’s “maximum pressure campaign.”

Richard Goldberg of FDD was highly critical of the banks, saying they should be taking such action “under their own corporate rules.” The banks in Japan have got the message, and Mitsubishi UFG Bank and Mizuho Bank have halted all transactions with Iran.

While many analysts see the reduction of commercial ties with Iran as primarily impacting the consuming and working public in Iran and so do not go directly after the regime’s leaders, that is not so.

The owner of many businesses in Iran, including ports management and telecommunications, is the IRGC, the Revolutionary Guard Corps that finances and manages terror attacks sponsored by Iran. Reducing Iran’s financial ties with the West dramatically curtails the income of the IRGC and, as a result, reduces its ability to conduct terrorism.

In a recent move, the United States sanctioned a ship in the Iranian commercial fleet. According to the Washington Beacon, the “Trump administration will take action against an Iranian ship that has been stationed at a key choke point in the Red Sea for months and is believed to be providing significant military aid to terrorist forces in Yemen” including “providing targeting information for Houthi anti-ship attacks” including an attack on a Saudi oil tanker.

As the Beacon notes, the ship, “identified as the Saviz, was delisted from U.S. sanctions by the Obama administration,” but will now be sanctioned as part of a broader “package of sanctions that will “target Iran’s port operations, shipping and shipbuilding sectors.”

The story concludes:

“The Obama administration enabled the Saviz to sail globally. President Trump will put a stop to that…a ship like Saviz could carry [Iranian military] Qods Force command and control elements and host berthing and logistics while controlling the activities of smaller, lower-profile craft. The maritime problem is in a chokepoint is short-legged but very multifaceted. It’s time to get the sanctions game face back on and pay Saviz or her sister ships a visit with a U.S. cruiser or destroyer.”

Can Sanctions Bring Down The Mullahs?

Although Michael Ledeen argues recently, “I don’t believe that sanctions are good enough,” he does acknowledge that “the Iranian regime is so hollow it could crash at any time.” He concludes, “I still don’t believe I have seen an oppressive regime fall because life in its land had become unbearable.”

On the other hand, he does ask, “So what does it take to produce serious, successful, viable regime change?” 

At the top of the list would be the perquisites of power. If taken away from the Mullahs by seizing their overseas assets, an option to which a British court has recently opened the door for victims of Iranian terrorism, then the Iranian nomenklatura bank accounts will dry up and they will bail out. Or be thrown out.

What more can we do, short of going to war? We could communicate with the Iranians seeking regime change through speeches from Washington and through U.S. policy and actions, like standing up a far better information warfare program. We could provide satellite phones and other communications gear for the Iranian “resistance,” and strike funds for the truckers as we did for Solidarity in Poland for almost a decade prior to the fall of the Soviet empire.

As Secretary of Defense Mattis warned, Iran is a creator of “mayhem” in the Middle East and beyond. Neither stability nor peace can exist in the region until the mullahs and their Islamic totalitarian ideology of conquest are gone. The combination of policies that will do the job are: maximum sanctions, a shut-off of Iranian oil exports and serious assistance and support for the resistance.

Peter Huessy is the director for strategic deterrent studies at the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies.


The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.