US Treasury chief applauds sanctions as alternative to military conflicts…but it hardly sits well with those sanctioned

Sanctions imposed on some stubborn countries are a better option than military conflicts, Steve Mnuchin claimed, just as the US rolled out fresh penalties against Iran and EU firms helping build a German-Russian pipeline.

“The reason why we’re using sanctions is because they are an important alternative for world military conflicts. And I believe it’s worked,” Mnuchin told CNBC’s Hadley Gamble at the Doha Forum in Qatar on Saturday. He singled out North Korea and Iran or “other places in the world” where, in his view, such tactics did “work.”

Anticipating potential outrage, the Treasury Secretary then threw a bit of pacifist rhetoric into the conversation. The US is “not weaponizing the US dollar,” and it is in Washington’s interest that “people use the dollar as the reserve currency of the world.” The dollar plays a vital role in piling pressure on Washington’s rivals, but such a tactic may be far from flawless, the Treasury chief warned: “And over a long period of time, if we’re not careful, people will look at using other currencies.”

Mnuchin’s remarks are unlikely to sit well with some leaders around the world. Iran’s leadership have consistently branded the sweeping US sanctions – targeting their oil trade, finances and infrastructure projects – as an act of “economic terrorism.”

For his part, Russian president Vladimir Putin questioned the efficiency of American restrictions introduced after the 2014 Ukrainian crisis. US leaders “shot themselves in the foot” whereas Russia remains an attractive market for foreign investors, he believes.

Incredibly, commerce between the US and Russia increased by $7 billion this year, even though there is no end in sight to the American trade restrictions.

Probably trying to make the world a safer place, the US has reinstated sanctions on the Iranian uranium enrichment facility in Fordow on Sunday. That facility had resumed operations after Washington pulled out of the 2015 JCPOA deal that put strains on Tehran’s nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of Western sanctions.

Also this week, Washington vowed to target contractors that are helping in the last remaining leg of the Russo-German Nord Stream 2 pipeline, threatening asset freezes and the revocation of US visas. The move led many politicians in Berlin to erupt in angry rants, with some suggesting responding in kind and curbing US gas sales to Europe.


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