In the opening days of this month, Donald Trump´s newly-appointed Administration announced the imposition of new sanctions on Iran. Specifically, 13 individuals and 12 businesses of Iranian, Lebanese, Chinese and UAE origin are being penalised for their alleged involvement in Iran´s ballistic missile programme and for their support towards the Houthi rebels, who operate in the Arabian Peninsula.
The immediate trigger of these sanctions was two-fold. Firstly, on the 29th January, the Islamic Republic of Iran carried out a test launch of a mid-range ballistic missile. In truth, the exact specification and power of the missile are unknown, making it impossible to say with any certainty that it was designed to carry a nuclear war weapon, and casting considerable doubt over its military value. The second allegation that led to the recent sanctions was the Houthi attack on the 31st January on a Saudi Arabian warship. This attack comes amidst other military operations that this ethnic and religious minority group, allegedly supported by Iran, is carrying out in various countries, most notably in Yemen.
The individuals and corporations in question are being accused of involvement in the importation of dual use goods intended for the Iranian nuclear programme. They also stand accused of transferring funds from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard to guerrilla groups operating abroad.
These sanctions, to which Iran has responded with reciprocal measures, must be considered in their own right and their significance mustn’t be blown out of proportion. Firstly, it’s worth keeping in mind that the accused are low-ranking individuals of little political or economic importance, and the same applies to the companies, not one of which is a large corporation with a great financial or industrial volume.
Secondly, it is important to remember that none of the sanctions lifted through the Western powers agreement with Iran, established by resolution 2231(2015) by the United Nations Security Council, has been reintroduced. This core “Nuclear Deal” remains very much intact and is in no way breached by the recent measures taken by North America. In the same way, it must also be noted that the Islamic Republic of Iran has not violated – for the moment – any of the commitments made in this Deal. The test that took place on the 29th January cannot be classified as a direct violation, since the missile that was launched did not have clear nuclear capability. As such, it is very important that the European Union has not expressed any concern over the launch, nor has it issued any kind of warning.
As has been pointed out by several North American media, the “Nuclear Deal” has not been jeopardised, despite the recent sanctions on Iran. Perhaps we are witnessing measures that are more symbolic than they are effective. The new North American Administration wanted to send out a message of steadfastness to its own citizens, to reassure its allies in the Middle East, particularly Saudi Arabia, and possibly also to remind the Iranian authorities where the boundaries are. To a large extent, we are simply observing the actions of an Administration that has just been appointed and wants to be recognised, but nevertheless one that, so far, is not out of tune with the behaviour of its predecessors on this matter.
José Luis Iriarte Ángel
Of Counsel – Lupicinio International Law Firm
Catedrático de Derecho Internacional Privado
UNIVERSIDAD PÚBLICA DE NAVARRA