The Symbolic Nod to Afghanistan: Iranian Port Exempt from U.S. Sanctions
The Gulf of Oman in Southern Iran houses a port that recently received a waiver from United States (U.S.) sanctions imposed on the West Asian country. The Indian-Iranian port project connects Afghanistan to India and many nearby countries—strategically decreasing Afghan dependency on Pakistan’s port of Karachi.
The Chabahar port’s waiver may stand symbolic of an American nod to Afghanistan, despite it being the brainchild of India. According to Afghan Presidential Spokesperson Haroon Chakhansori, there has been significant work done behind the scenes to grant this decision. “Since the start of discussions over new sanctions on Iran, the Afghan president has personally focused on this issue with utter seriousness and commitment and discussed it through diplomatic channels with U.S. officials,” Chakhansori announced.
The exception granted by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo permits the continued construction of a railway line from the port to Afghanistan, for shipments to the war-torn country of non-sanctionable goods (like food and medicines), and for Afghanistan to continue importing Iranian petroleum products.
The sanctions, as originally announced in May, would have harmed the acquisition of funding for India’s development of Chabahar. This would have proven to run counter to U.S. President Donald Trump’s South Asian strategy announcement in 2017. Parallel to President Trump’s strategy is the counterbalancing approach the port may have against China’s regional influence. It is of no surprise that China’s government recently financed a competing port project just across the border in Pakistan, where it is investing up to $60 billion in a giant network of transportation and energy infrastructure, the China Pakistan Economic Corridor.
The symbolism of Chabahar’s waiver will be highlighted as the project progresses. As of now, it is evident that the U.S. government currently intends to provide India with a larger role in Afghanistan. In August 2017, during the announcement of the U.S. strategy for South Asia, President Trump said the following:
“We appreciate India’s important contributions to stability in Afghanistan, but India conducts billions of dollars in trade with the United States, and we want them to help us more with Afghanistan, especially in the area of economic assistance and development.”