Trump hopes punitive actions against the two countries will win him plaudits in the battle for the White House.
By – Independent – Borzou Daragahi
Sep 17, 2020
US officials have warned they will dramatically step up global pressure on Iran in the coming days by imposing sanctions to block weapons and energy shipments to Tehran.
Such a move raises the possibility of American warships halting Iranian cargo ships in international waters, which would be a further escalation of tensions between the two countries, in the run-up to the most contentious US presidential election in recent history.
The hawkish US envoy to Iran and Venezuela Elliott Abrams said that Washington would spell out measures in the coming days it would take to enforce sanctions against the Islamic Republic – as well as similar measures against Caracas, where the US supports the opposition against the regime of Nicolas Maduro – an ally of Tehran.
The added pressure would be in contravention of a United Nations Security Council’s decision to reject the US attempt to reimpose brutal sanctions on Iran that were removed as part of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the nuclear accord.
The administration of Donald Trump has only a few months left in its first and possibly last term. But the US may see any move against long-standing foe Iran as a potentially popular move with some voters.
Mr Abrams, who recently took over Iran policy from the departing Brian Hook, is known for his foreign policy adventurism. He was once convicted for his part in a scheme to use proceeds of illegal arms sales to Iran to finance Central American militias accused of war crimes. He was later pardoned.
Some fear enforcement of the sanctions could entail US warships halting Iranian or Iranian-bound cargo ships in international waters.
“Will they try to stop ships in the open waters that are trying to bring non-military goods? That’s a very good question,” said one senior European diplomat. “If the US tried to stop a shipment to Iran, I don’t know what ensues. It will create another element of uncertainty in an already uncertain situation.”
The US already seized several Iranian tankers bound for Venezuela with cargoes of fuel but in open waters far from the Iranian military.
Read More: Independent – Trump administration threatens to step up pressure against Iran and Venezuela in run-up to 2020 election