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Why I Confronted Trump’s Architect of U.S. Sanctions Against Iran and Called Her a 'Weapon of Mass Destruction'

Sigal Mandelker’s cruel policies cost too many lives to ignore.

Jodie Evans with others outside of the United Against a Nuclear Iran conference in New York City. (Photo: Codepink)

Jodie Evans with others outside of the United Against a Nuclear Iran conference in New York City. (Photo: Codepink)

Last week I exposed the architect of the U.S.’s deadly ‘maximum pressure’ sanctions policy, Sigal Mandelker, in front of the United Against a Nuclear Iran conference in New York City.

The maximum pressure sanctions policy is responsible for the death of over 40,000 people. Mandelker said, twice in her speech, that Iran has weapons of mass destruction. She was knowingly dog-whistling, lying to the media and conference attendees, knowing this would feed the story Trump and Pompeo want to support war with Iran.

Iran doesn’t have weapons of mass destruction. The Trump administration knows they don’t have weapons of mass destruction.

Iran doesn’t have weapons of mass destruction. The Trump administration knows they don’t have weapons of mass destruction. We all know they are 10 years away from having WMDs.

So, I got up, holding a CODEPINK banner that says “Peace with Iran,” and disrupted her speech, walking to the podium and holding it for everyone to see.

“You are lying,” I said to her, and so attendees could hear. “There are no weapons of mass destruction in Iran. You are a weapon of mass destruction to the humanity of Iran. You are a weapon of mass destruction to the people of Iran, Cuba and Venezuela. You have killed people. You have denied sick people medicine.”

I was brutally stopped and carried out of the room.

But this moment was an impetus:

Mandelker is the Trump administration’s top sanctions official and the undersecretary at the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence.

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And she resigned this week from her position. Did she not want her lies and violence exposed?

Mandelker is one of the most hawkish members of the administration when it comes to Iran, directly responsible for expanding the use of sanctions as a primary tool of foreign policy against countries such as Iran as well as Venezuela, Cuba and Russia. Throughout her career, she has been in close step with the Israeli lobby, speaking at events hosted by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and AIPAC and supporting their agenda to falsely frame Iran as a nuclear threat and sanction the nation into an economic crisis. Mandelker is a former clerk for Clarence Thomas, a current member of the conservative Federalist Society, and is one of the lawyers involved in brokering the Florida deal that allowed child sex-trafficker Jeffrey Epstein to avoid federal charges.

Did she not want the story of her involvement with Epstein exposed?

While John Bolton and Mike Pompeo have been considered the main drivers of Trump’s maximum pressure campaign against Iran, Mandelker has been the person behind the scenes actually executing the policy, and has spoken of the “success” of the policy, though her definition of success seems to be destroying Iran’s economy through collective punishment. Since its founding and especially under Mandelker, the Treasury is responsible for its innovative ways to expand sanctions as a form of diplomatic isolation, going so far as to threaten fines and arrest to those who associate with sanctioned actors without any stated jurisdiction to do so in the regulations. The Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence itself was created due to the lobbying of AIPAC in 2004, and AIPAC also vetted the first person to fill the role Mandelker recently held, the ultra-Zionist Stuart Levey, cementing its very existence to the interests of the Israeli lobby. Under Mandelker, the administration went forward with the unprecedented move to designate the Iran Revolutionary Guard Corps as terrorists and leveled sanctions against institutions that collaborate with the U.S., including sanctioning the Jammal Trust Bank in Lebanon this year despite the fact that the bank partnered with USAID the year before on public initiatives to help impoverished communities.

Mandelker has made it explicitly clear that her hawkish Iran policy is acting on behalf of Israeli interests, claiming that the JCPOA did nothing to curb Iran’s threat to Israel. She has gone so far as to state that this is the reason “why we have this massive sanctions regime. Because we know Iran is threatening our great partner, Israel” at the Aspen Security Forum this year. She has been referred to as “Israeli born” and a “former Israeli” by right-wing Israeli press, but the Treasury Department has refused to answer inquiries as to whether or not Mandelker is still an Israeli citizen, an important piece of information when U.S. attacks in the region are often the result of Israeli partisans’ interests.

Her resignation is a victory for humanity. May it be the first of many of the warmongers; and then there were none.

We at CODEPINK will continue to expose the lies and violence that are being used to destroy lives and lead to war.

This article was produced by Local Peace Economy, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

Jodie Evans

Jodie Evans, a co-founder of CODEPINK: Women for Peace, has been a community, social and political organizer for the last 30 years.

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