TRUMP’S CODE: Making Money on Populist Disorder I
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Translation: Fairpress

Author: Munir Podumljak

Partnership for Social Development (PSD) published a publication titled “TRUMP’S CODE: Making Money on Populist Disorder”, covering the course of the events related to US president Donald Trump, members of Trump’s organization, Russian president Vladimir Putin, and other actors that affected the US elections 2016 and BREXIT. Details of the publication are brought here in a series of articles.

Trump’s decision to pull out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), more commonly known as the ‘Iran deal’ left European leaders shocked and confused, struggling to comprehend the behavior of their most important ally. François Delattre, France’s ambassador to the United Nations, invented a new term for such an act of unilateral isolationism – “unisolationism”[1], with France’s foreign Secretary Jean-Yves Le Drian later declaring that “the American logic is an isolationist, protectionist and unilateral logic.”[2] [3]

The rationale for the US President’s decision was no clearer to US security and foreign policy actors. Former CIA director John Brennan told MSNBC News that he “does not understand the logic (behind the decision)”, and that in deciding to pull out from the Iran nuclear deal, President Trump “foolishly and blindly pursued a campaign promise about trashing a nuclear deal”, further reinstating that the decision was made on a “very flawed understanding of that (JCPOA) arrangement.[4]

It is hardly the only radical shift in US foreign policy that has occurred under Trump, a president whose decisions – whether strategic or impetuous – are re-shaping the world order. In this article, we unpick the winners of this particular decision and demonstrate mechanisms through which some key winners may have been instrumental in provoking it.

The Iran nuclear deal: brainchild of US diplomats

The JCPOA deal was reached in Vienna on 14 July 2015, the culmination of long negotiations between Iran, the so-called P5+1 (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council: China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, plus non-member Germany) and the European Union. US-Iran relations had become tense in 2005, when the UN International Atomic

Energy Agency (IAEA) found that Tehran was not complying with its international obligations.[5][6] The IAEA report triggered a US diplomatic effort to convene a group of international actors with the aim of financially isolating Tehran and blocking its oil exports, increasing the cost of Iran’s efforts to develop a potential nuclear-weapons capability and bringing Tehran to the negotiating table. US diplomats took the lead. They managed to secure a first round of UN sanctions in 2006[7], and these were tightened over the coming years until a fourth binding UN resolution was approved in June 2010.[8] These sanctions, according to the Council for Foreign Relations, “adopted the U.S. approach, linking Iran’s oil profits and its banking/financial sector, including its central bank, to proliferation efforts, therefore subjecting them to international sanction”. This “US approach” came in to full force with the 2011 Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act (CISADA)[9], which then Treasury Under Secretary David Cohen called “a death penalty for any international bank” that engages in breaking sanctions.[10]

Sanctions against Iran may have been spearheaded by the United States, but they were given weight by the cooperation and collaboration of the world’s largest economy at the time, the European Union. In 2007, following the US diplomatic offensive, the EU froze the assets of the individuals and entities related to Iran’s military programs. They further extended sanctions in 2010 by “blocking European institutions from transacting with Iranian banks, including its central bank, and restricting trade and investment with the country’s energy and transport sector”.[11] This culminated in 2012 with a measure to ban the import of oil and petrochemical products as well as insurance on shipping, and to freeze assets related to Iran’s central bank.[12]

The cooperation of the EU was critical to the impact of the sanctions. As the CRS report noted, “A year prior to its 2012 oil embargo, the EU was the largest importer of Iranian oil, averaging 600,000 barrels per day”. Overall, the full package of sanctions (US, EU and UN) crippled the Iranian economy. In the year after the sanctions were imposed, Iran’s oil production halved, resulting in USD160 billion losses in oil revenue in 2012 alone, according to then US Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew.[13]

Read more in the next article.


This article was created with the support of the Fund for the Promotion of Pluralism and Diversity of Electronic Media within the project “Media Reality” – Developing and Encouraging the Media Literacy Programme




[1] Dreazen, Y. (2018). Europe’s fury over Trump’s Iran decision, explained in one word. Vox, [online]. Available at: [Accessed 10 Jul. 2018].

[2] Martichoux, E. (2018) L’accord sur le nucléaire iranien “n’est pas mort”, insiste Le Drian sur RTL. RTL, [online]. Available at: [Accessed 10 Jul. 2018].

[3] Bell, M. (2018) Macron and other European leaders pledge to salvage Iran deal. CNN, [online]. Available at: [Accessed 10 Jul. 2018].

[4] MSNBC (2018) Fmr CIA Director Brennan: Trump’s decision on Iran Deal “not just foolish, but dangerous”. [online]. Available at: [Accessed 10 Jul. 2018].

[5] Laub, Z. (2015) International Sanctions on Iran. Council on foreign relations, [online]. Available at: [Accessed 10 Jul. 2018].

[6] International Atomic Energy Agency (2005) Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement in the Islamic Republic of Iran. [pdf]. Available at: [Accessed 10 Jul. 2018].

[7] Gootman, E. (2006) Security Council Approves Sanctions Against Iran Over Nuclear Program. The New York Times, [online]. Available at: [Accessed 10 Jul. 2018].

[8] United Nations (2010) Security Council Imposes Additional Sanctions on Iran, Voting 12 in Favor to 2 Against, with 1 Abstention. [online]. Available at: [Accessed 10 Jul. 2018].

[9] Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act. Available at: [Accessed 10 Jul. 2018].

[10] United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations (2015) Written Testimony of David S. Cohen Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence United States Department of the Treasury. [pdf]. Available at: [Accessed 10 Jul. 2018].

[11] COUNCIL REGULATION (EU) No 961/2010 of 25 October 2010 on restrictive measures against Iran and repealing Regulation (EC) No 423/2007. [pdf]. Available at: [Accessed 10 Jul. 2018].

[12] COUNCIL REGULATION (EU) No 267/2012 of 23 March 2012 concerning restrictive measures against Iran and repealing Regulation (EU) No 961/2010. [pdf]. Available at: [Accessed 10 Jul. 2018].

[13] Lew, J. J. (2015) Remarks of Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew to The Washington Institute. The Washington Institute, [online]. Available at:  [Accessed 10 Jul. 2018].





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