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The Known Unknowns of US Sanctions Against Iran

The sanctions against Iran reinstated by US President Donald Trump raise two all-important questions that have no convincing answers. But they also raise a third question, about which financial markets are likely to be wrong.

BEIJING – The sanctions against Iran reinstated by US President Donald Trump raise two all-important questions that have no convincing answers. First, will this action make the world safer, as Trump claims, or will it further destabilize the Middle East and undermine future efforts to limit nuclear weapons, as argued by most geopolitical experts not directly employed by the US, Israeli, or Saudi governments? And, second, will US efforts to compel foreign companies to observe its sanctions against Iran prove as tough as Trump’s belligerent rhetoric?

The Iran sanctions could of course turn out to be an empty gesture. As a former Chinese ambassador to Iran recently put it: “For more than a year, Trump’s diplomacy, from the North American Free Trade Agreement, the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact and the Paris climate deal to the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue and the Syrian civil war, can be described as loud thunder but little rain.”

Still, the question of war and peace is impossible to answer. Fifteen years of Middle East chaos unleashed by the 2003 Iraq war have taught the world one indisputable lesson: nobody in the White House, the CIA, Mossad, or the Saudi intelligence services has a clue as to what might happen next in the region.

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