This month, the United States imposed on Iran its most draconian round of sanctions yet. These measures made clear something the global community has long known: When it comes to international finance, Washington sets the rules for others to follow. Though some governments, led by the European Union, have announced initiatives to break free of this U.S. dominance, their policies will likely fail. Less publicized trends, however, are already eroding U.S. financial power and may make aggressive U.S. sanctions policies untenable.
When U.S. President Donald Trump announced in May that he would reimpose sanctions on Iran lifted under the 2015 nuclear deal, the effect was swift. Companies began to comply, independently of their governments’ stances toward Tehran. Even as the EU moved over the summer to make it illegal for its companies to comply with the new U.S. sanctions, firms were already turning away from Iran.
The costs of not following U.S. rules are very high. The U.S. dollar greases the wheels of global commerce, and legitimate businesses cannot risk losing access to it.