The United States imposed sanctions on 30 foreign entities and individuals in 10 countries pursuant to the Iran, North Korea, and Syria Nonproliferation Act (INKSNA). These sanctions apply to the specific individuals and entities to be in effect for two years. The measure went into effect on March 21.
The list includes eight Russian entities involved in airspace industry and pilot training. No violations were specified. The decision runs contrary to the US president’s statements expressing readiness to joint together in the fight against the Islamic State (IS).
Should Russia impose sanctions in return, including a ban on sale of the RD-181 rocket engines which the United States needs so badly to keep its space research effort afloat? America kept on buying this Russian technology while putting pressure on the EU to make it keep the sanctions in place.
The decision was prompted by Iran’s missile test on March 9. No evidence has been produced to support he affirmation that Russia had relation to Iran’s missile program. Besides, ballistic missiles not designed to carry nuclear warheads are not banned under the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2231 adopted on July 20, 2015 to endorse a landmark nuclear agreement, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
The document says Iran is «called upon» not to undertake any activity related to missiles «designed to be capable of» delivering nuclear weapons. The language that Resolution 2231 employs in addressing Iran’s ballistic missile activity is legally non-binding. Therefore there is no legal obligation on Iran regarding its ballistic missile activity contained in Resolution 2231, and there can thus be no violation of a legal obligation that doesn’t exist. Since January 16, 2016, Iran is no longer under a legal prohibition regarding its ballistic missile activity from the Security Council.
Does the decision to sanction Russian entities meet America’s national security interests?
The US military campaign in Afghanistan is in dire straits after fifteen years of incessant effort with an end not more in sight. NATO has approached Russia on the resumption of cooperation. The US has partially lifted sanctions against Russian cooperation with Afghanistan on helicopter maintenance with Russia’s Rosoboronexport, the country’s state agency for exports/imports of defense-related and dual-use products. Like in the case of the Russia-produced RD-180 and RD-181 rocket engines, Washington comfortably forgot about the anti-Russia restrictive measures.
Moscow is a natural ally in Afghanistan. The situation is of immediate concern for Russia adamant in its desire to intensify efforts aimed at ending the conflict. The infiltration of Islamic State (IS) into Afghanistan threatens the Russian North Caucasus and the Volga region.
Libya is a safe haven for the IS and other extremists groups. The US is already involved there while Libyan military commanders and lawmakers are calling on Russia to help. The situation in Libya necessitates an intervention of international community. The current escalation of the fighting in Libya reminds of the fact that North Africa is threatened by the IS. For instance, Algeria is on the way to becoming a major security challenge this year. Morocco and other nations of Maghreb are threatened too.
Lebanon is another potential target for the IS. With General Michel Aoun in office since November 1, 2016, the opportunities for Russian-Lebanese cooperation, including anti-terrorist activities, have widened.
All in all, Russia’s influence in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), including military cooperation and the fight against the IS, is growing. As a major actor involved, Russia is doomed to be part of any international effort to provide security in the region.
After Afghanistan and Iraq, the US is hardly ready to go it alone and shoulder the heavy burden of military interventions in all hot spots where the IS may try to establish a stronghold. For the first time in the counterterrorist struggle, the United States and Russia share a common enemy in the form of IS. The group’s fighters going back to the US or Russia make no distinction – they stage attacks to kill people, be it Americans or Russians.
Neither Russia nor the United States can tolerate a terrorist state (caliphate) established to train militants and create the potential of weapons of mass destruction. It would be folly to exchange blows instead of taking the bull by the horn and working together on the plans to do away with the enemy. In late January, Russian and American presidents agreed to fight the IS together in a phone conversation. On March 7, the Russian and US chiefs of staff discussed better coordination against the IS. Now Washington appears to make a U-turn in its flip-flop policy.
The US may like it or not, but it cannot escape from reality – Russia is the only actor able and willing to commit significant assets to the fight (Syria is a good example). Russia has clear geopolitical interests behind its anti-terrorist effort. It has had problems in the past with terrorism within their own borders. Chechen fighters who had joined the IS ranks in Syria, have threatened to take the fight back to Russia. Russian President said that it is better to fight terrorists in Syria than wait until they return to the country. Both Iraq and Syria – unlike the United States – are geographically much closer to Russia than to the US, which is thousands of kilometers away.
The two nations did it in the 1940s, why can’t they do the same thing now? Much has been said about the need to join efforts. Undermining the prospects for cooperation against the terrorists, the US shoots itself into the foot.
The efforts to divide the two great powers to make them go separate ways benefit the IS and others extremists. Imposing restrictive measures against Russia is a sure way to make the IS leaders happy.