The Trump administration is threatening America’s European allies with harsh sanctions—among them, exclusion from a principal component of the global financial system—should they decide to keep doing business with Iran.
In early June, Sigal Mandelker, a previously obscure Justice Department and Homeland Security official now serving as acting deputy secretary of the Treasury Department, spoke before an audience at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD), a Washington think tank, and fired a shot across the proverbial bow of European governments and businesses, warning, “Companies doing business in Iran face substantial risks, and those risks are even greater as we reimpose nuclear-related sanctions.”
“We will hold,” said Mandelker, “those doing prohibited business in Iran to account.”
The venue at which Mandelker spoke was only too appropriate. Described by the journalist Mark Perry as “perhaps the most powerful outside influencer of the Trump White House today,” FDD is credited, even by its opponents, as being among Washington’s most effective proponents of neoconservative ideas. In the estimation of Trita Parsi, the author of Losing an Enemy: Obama, Iran, and the Triumph of Diplomacy, “FDD certainly punches above its weight.”
Over the past several years, FDD had helped lead the opposition to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), also known as the Iran nuclear agreement, and is currently spearheading a push to wage economic warfare not only against Iran, but also against European countries too should they decide to part from the Trump administration’s policy on Iran.
Punching Above Its Weight
In his 2015 profile of the group, journalist and author John Judis explained that in the wake of the September 11 attacks, the former New York Times correspondent turned neoconservative publicist, Clifford May, rebranded a small pro-Israel nonprofit called EMET (which is Hebrew for “truth”) into FDD, which, according to its mission, “promotes informed debate about policies and positions that most effectively end the scourge of international terrorism.”
May, who served as Republican National Committee communications director from 1997 to 2001, was recruited to head the new organization by Jack Kemp, the former GOP congressman and vice-presidential nominee.