Club of sanctioned countries: Potential bloc against US ‘economic terrorism’

Tehran, Sept 18, IRNA - An Iranian parliamentary faction has come up with the idea of establishing a club of sanctioned countries for concerted action against the US economic sanctions that Tehran calls "economic terrorism".

The presiding board of the Iranian Parliament's faction on countering sanctions and a group of activists dealing with the sanctions held a meeting with the representative of Supreme Leader of Iran’s Islamic Revolution and Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) Ali Shamkhani on Saturday evening. 

"The US policy of maximum pressure, which was pursued with a bogus assumption in order to dismantle Iran’s national economy, was brought to its knees in the face of the strategy of active resistance,” Vice-Admiral Shamkhani said in the meeting.

Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council also pointed to an intense cognitive war that has been plotted and implemented by the hostile media for supporting the US policy of maximum pressure on Iran, adding, "Despite enduring heavy economic pressures, the resisting people of Iran did not lose this war because of their awareness, insight, and wisdom, and frustrated the enemy’s hopes of achieving its objectives.”

Shamkhani also welcomed the parliamentary faction on countering sanctions’ idea of forming the club of sanctioned countries and active involvement in the fight against the US’ economic terrorism, stressing, "Resistance meets with success when it comes with the approach of constant activeness, and such a measure could be an effective step in the path to the continued strategy of active resistance.”

He also described the issue of combating sanctions under  current circumstances as the main ground for unity among various Iranian political factions, adding, “Given its past experiences, the enemy has recognized the fact that the Islamic Republic has gained a remarkable level of maturity and capability in combating the threats, and hence it (the enemy) seeks to create social, political and security crises and create troubles in order to minimize the country’s (Iran’s) branches of power’s concentration on countering the threats.”

Iran has been trying to forge better relations with the countries that have been sanctioned by the US such as Russia, China, and North Korea in the East or Cuba, Venezuela, and Bolivia in the West.

China: 25-year strategic partnership

Asia's dragon is rising high enough to stand against the America's eagle and given the dragon's size and clout, there is big probability that China will come out the winner of such a standoff. Beijing is back on its feet and wants to be the world's number one political and economic power by reviving the old celebrated Silk Road, also known as the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). 

Sitting at the heart of the Middle East, Iran well connects East with West, Central Asia, Europe, and Africa, making it a prime regional hub of road and rail connection as part of the Chinese BRI. In his recent visit to China, Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif presented his country's 25-year strategic partnership roadmap to senior Chinese authorities to prove how serious Iran is in the Asian country's ambitious project. 

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, left, presents Tehran's 25-year strategic partnership roadmap with China late August in Beijing. @JZarif

“I proposed a 25-year roadmap to consolidate our integral strategic association between Iran and China and make a positive contribution to the Belt and Road initiative,” Zarif tweeted following a meeting with China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi late August. 

The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is a global development strategy involving infrastructure development and investments in 152 countries and international organizations in Asia, Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and the Americas.

"Belt" refers to the overland routes for road and rail transportation, called "the Silk Road Economic Belt"; whereas "road" refers to the sea routes, or the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road.

The International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC) passes through Iran, linking India with Central Asia, Afghanistan, Eurasia, and Europe bypassing Pakistan.

Iran is also investing and constructing rail and road infrastructures to serve as a perfect regional transport hub. 

Recently, Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei approved making use of Iran's sovereign wealth fund for construction of a key railway in the southeast of the country, says Iran’s transportation minister.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is being briefed about key rail project that links Chabahar on the Gulf of Oman to Zahedan and then Afghanistan. 

Mohammad Eslami said on Tuesday that the government had proposed drawing up from the fund to finance the Chabahar-Zahedan railway, a key link connecting Iran’s coastal areas on the Sea of Oman to the border with Afghanistan.

“We proposed tapping into the National Development Fund to earmark credit to the Chabahar-Zahedan railway project which was approved by the Leader,” said Eslami, insisting that the project was a “national dream” as it could boost trade and economic activity in the relatively-deprived areas in the southeast of Iran.

Also, China has been buying the Iranian oil defying the US sanctions that have been meant to bring down Iran's oil exports to zero. 

China imported Iranian crude oil in July for the second month since a US sanctions waiver ended, according to research from three data firms, with one estimate showing some oil entered tanks holding the country’s strategic reserves.

According to the firms, which track tanker movements, between 4.4 million and 11 million barrels of Iranian crude were discharged into China last month, or 142,000 to 360,000 barrels per day (bpd). The upper end of that range would mean July imports still added up to close to half of their year-earlier level despite sanctions, Reuters reports.

 Russia: no dollar, no SWIFT

The Big Bear has always been there, above Iran, at conflict with Tehran at times, but ultimately, its friend. Iran and Russia are both under the US sanctions for various reasons. The US pullout from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and its subsequent reimposition of unilateral economic sanctions on Iran made it very hard for Iran to keep normal trade with its partners as the world market is dominated by the US greenback.

Also, the Swiss-based and US-dominated Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, known as SWIFT, announced in November that it would sever ties with individual Iran-based banks for the sake of the "global stability of the system," without elaborating.

As these events unfolded, Tehran and Moscow, whose bilateral trade volume has surpassed $1bn during the last five months, rushed to set up a banking messaging channel of their own to ease their problems. On Tuesday, Central Bank of Iran (CBI) Governor Abdolnaser Hemmati said Iranian and Russian banking messaging systems are now connected, making them able to ditch using the US-dominated SWIFT channel. 

“Using this system for transactions with member states of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) can help develop trade ties between them,” said Central Bank of Iran (CBI) Governor Abdolnaser Hemmati on Tuesday, referring to Iran’s accession to a Free Trade Zone (FTZ) with the five-member regional economic entity.

Hemmati made the remark after a meeting between Hemmati made the remark after a meeting between Iranian and Russian presidents Hassan Rouhani and Vladimir Putin, respectively in the Turkish capital Ankara on Monday. in the Turkish capital Ankara on Monday.

Russian has also been helping Iran to sell its oil in the wake of US unilateral sanctions. 

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani meets his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Ankara on Monday. IRNA

North Korea: distant but close

Bilateral ties between Iran and North Korea have been warm and remained friendly following the 1979 Islamic Revolution. The two states have been challenging the US narrative of the world order, trying to damage the US-dictated systems.

Although Pyongyang has held several rounds of talks with the US recently over its nuclear programme, it has refused to do away with it completely by accepting Washington's demands and desires. Iran has also been trying hard to be coerced into talks with the US under the so-called "maximum pressure policy". Neither Tehran, nor Pyongyang trust the US Administration of President Donald Trump.

The two nations are no stranger to sanctions, they have withstood them for long. "The US hasn't been able to bring us to our knees through sanctions," said Iran's Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi late August during a meeting with a North Korean parliamentary delegation in Tehran.

Iran's Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi, middle right, holds talks with North Korean parliamentary delegation in Tehran. IRNA

The two states don't publicize much about their relations and meetings but have each other's back in the tough times.  

Cuba: Open doors for Iran

Cuba is one of those countries that are ready to join the club. Back in August, Cuban Ambassador to Iran Alexis Bandrich Vega told Iran Chamber Newsroom that Havana is prepared to sit down with sanctioned countries in a bid to coordinate efforts against the US.

Venezuelan, Nicaraguan, Cuban and Bolivian ambassadors to Iran launch "No + Trump" campaign in Tehran. IRNA

Nicaragua and Cuba in Central America as well as South American nations of Venezuela, Bolivia are the four main Iran allies in the Americas as they have been subject to Washington's punitive measures because of their anti-US policies. 

Cuban Ambassador to Iran Alexis Bandrich Vega interviewed by IRNA at the Venezuelan diplomatic mission in Tehran.

Representatives of these four nations in Iran met last week to launch "No + Trump" campaign that is set to earn the support of Iran and other like-minded countries against the US policies. 

Venezuela-Iran: From Ahmadinejad-Chaves to Rouhani-Maduro

Venezuela, that is undergoing extremely tough times under the US sanctions as well as Washington's efforts to meddle in its internal affairs, is one of those countries that sees Iran as a perfect powerful ally as it's surrounded by right-wing governments in South America. 

Venezuelan Ambassador to Iran Carlos Antonio Alcalá Cordones was cited by Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) as saying that Caracas-Tehran ties are unbreakable. 

Venezuelan Ambassador to Iran Carlos Antonio Alcalá Cordones interviewed by IRNA at the Venezuelan diplomatic mission in Tehran.

"Despite the fact that both Venezuela and Iran are subject to economic, financial and commercial blockades and are threatened by war drums, the two governments have been able to coordinate their efforts to get what Iranian and Venezuelan leaders, Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei and Nicolás Maduro have been seeking," said Alcalá Cordones.

Iran and Nicaragua: new economic alliance 

When Nicaraguans took to the streets of the Central American nation in April 2018 to protest against a rise in social welfare rates, street protests started to form into a staunch anti-government protest, calling for President Daniel Ortega's ouster. 

However, the government in Manágua, has stood firm in its place, defying all efforts by hawkish US strategists, such as Donald Trump's national security advisor John Bolton, to overthrow it. 

Nicaraguan Ambassador to Iran Mario Antonio Barquero Baltadano interviewed by IRNA at the Venezuelan diplomatic mission in Tehran.

With relative calm returning to the country that has been ruled by leftist Sandinist government since 1970, Iran has been eyeing further trade relations to consolidate their warm political ties, and it's serious. 

Back in August, a high-level political and economic delegation from Nicaragua visited Iran Chamber of Commerce to weigh the Iranian private sector's potentials for investment in the country. 

Bolivia: Evo Morales finds powerful ally in Middle East

Bolivia is one of those Latin American countries that has been suffering from the US punitive measures for simply standing up against the US policies in the region. Surrounded by right-wing governments in Chile, Argentina and Brasil, Evo Morales, the indigenous president of Boliva has left himself alone. But, not that much. Iran is there to help.  

Despite the long distance between Iran and its LatAm allies, Tehran has been extending its helping hand. In his recent visit to Bolivia, Zarif signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the country's military university EMI Military Engineering School in the city of Santa Cruz to build a nanotechnoolgy laboratory. 

Iran's Foreign Minister Mohamamd Javad Zarif, right, holds a copy of the text of Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with his Bolivian counterapart Diego Pary in Santa Cruz in July. IRNA

"Iran is ready to share its achievements with those nations that don't seek to link their progress with asking help from those countries that support unilateralism and don't play any role in changing the world´s hegemony," Zarif said in Bolivia in July. 

"The relations between Iran and Bolivia are very friendly and growing day by day. Since Zarif's visit to Bolivia, our bilateral relations are being consolidated more. There are many more fields of cooperation between the two countries," said Bolivian Ambassador to Iran Romina Guadalupe Pérez Ramos told IRNA early September. 

 Report by Ali Dashti. Follow him on Twitter @AdashtiAli 

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