Attributing a statement to President Barack Obama doesn’t make it any less nonsensical, as US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo ought well to know. Nor should one mistake the sentiments of people quoted in a story with those of RT.
RT.com “got it wrong again,” Pompeo tweeted on Tuesday, saying that it was President Barack Obama who made a statement we attributed to him. “He told Congress, rightly, that the US could snapback sanctions on Iran anytime and no country could block it. It is still true now. I’ll wait for your correction.”
Hey @RT_com, you got it wrong again. This statement about snapback isn’t mine – it is President Obama's. He told Congress, rightly, that the U.S. could snapback sanctions on Iran anytime and no country could block it. It is still true now. I’ll wait for your correction. pic.twitter.com/naJFAD3RcC
— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) August 18, 2020
Which would be fair if Pompeo had included the same screenshot in his Monday tweet, instead of committing plagiarism by leaving the attribution off. His self-correction is certainly appreciated in that regard.
That said, it changes nothing about the substance of the RT story in question, which quoted journalists, pundits and academics calling out Pompeo for the claim that the US can impose “multilateral” sanctions on Iran by itself.
Pompeo’s argument, paraphrasing Obama, that the US can “snapback sanctions on Iran anytime and no country could block it” is a straw man. Neither RT nor anyone quoted in the story has argued that any country can block the US from imposing its own sanctions against Tehran.
Whether it originated with Obama or with Pompeo – as his original tweet suggested – makes no difference; the claim in the quote remains nonsensical. “Multilateral” sanctions cannot be imposed unilaterally, by definition, no matter how many word games one attempts to play.
One might argue that the US could demand the other signatories of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal (the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, JCPOA) join Washington in reimposing the sanctions. Except the US has no standing to do so, as the Trump administration unilaterally exited the JCPOA in 2018, making such a discussion purely academic.
Diplomacy isn’t like driving a tank. One can’t just pop smoke and smash through an obstacle, tempting as that may be. While it may seem frustrating that what we’ve got here is a failure to communicate, the fact that Pompeo and his staff at Foggy Bottom pay attention to RT reporting leaves open some hope for greater understanding in the future.
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