Precious few governments act ethically and morally, and even those do so infrequently. But when an action, in addition to being a- or immoral and unethical, is also inappropriate, inconsistent, indecent, irrational, and shafts an innocent third party, it becomes outrageous.
It won’t surprise you to learn that the source of this inequity is the White House, and the specific matter of concern is the unilateral re-imposition of sanctions on Iran after withdrawing from the nuclear agreement that took years to craft. These target more than 700 individuals, organizations, aircraft, and ships in Iran.
I will not discuss the (il)legality of this, nor the humanitarian impacts on the people of Iran, nor the domestic politics driving it, and not even the foolishness of picking too many economic fights at the same time (remember that sanctions have been imposed on Russia and tariffs on China).
The reason this concerns Armenians is that eight countries—China, India, Italy, Greece, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Turkey—have been exempted, but not the Republic of Armenia. These are Iran’s largest oil customers. It seems that forcing them to stop buying from Iran would spike the price of oil, and President Donald Trump, in his infinite wisdom doesn’t want that to happen. Of course he doesn’t care that the sanctions threatened against financial institutions that handle transactions with Iran’s banks have the effect of severely complicating, if not effectively preventing otherwise permissible transactions/trade with Iran.
In all this, the RoA has done nothing wrong but may take a severe pounding because of the critical nature of its economic ties with Iran. Foreign Ministry spokesperson Anna Naghdalian said, “Currently a comprehensive expert study is underway on the consequences on Armenia of the sanctions on Iran.” Deputy foreign minister Karen Nazarian explained that the RoA develops its relations bilaterally (in this case with the U.S.) and “never … at the expense of third countries” (in this case Iran) – a very wise and rational approach that has its roots in Armenia’s geographic location at the crossroads of the world.
But none of this is too much of a surprise. The irresponsible approach and mindset of the Trump administration has been evident for a long time, on almost all issues. But when it comes to the RoA, one might have hoped for a little more common sense, even from this coterie of incompetents, sycophants (of the president), and warmongers. After all, even John Bolton spoke glowingly of the importance of the relations with Armenia for the U.S. during his recent visit there. It is also unsurprising because we observed the buildup towards this (as I suggested in “Silly-Stupid-Suspicious Statement Season” just last week). First it was Ambassador Mills’ comments about understanding Armenia’s needs (why was that emphasized?), then John Bolton’s much more strident and demanding tone during his visit (was that his signal of what was coming?), and now this. The targeting of Tehran’s financial institutions may well be the biggest problem for Yerevan.
And perhaps the bitterest (though not most onerous) outcome of all this is that, once again, Turkey gets lucky, despite its being in violation of international law thanks to its blockade of Armenia.
Our community’s political representatives in Washington are already working on this problem, assessing how best to tackle and correct it. Meanwhile, all those Armenians who voted for Trump thinking he was somehow a good choice from the perspective of Armenian concerns, it’s time to step up and deluge him with you dissatisfaction at omitting Armenia from the list of countries exempt from sanctions. Get to it. This is very serious stuff.