The current sanctions against Iran are an utter failure and only hurt the people


11:01 am - February 18th 2013

by Guest    


      Share on Tumblr

by Luke Watson

As long ago as 2007, US diplomats were entertaining thoughts about dealing directly with the Iranian people, professing admiration for Iranian history and culture, and expressing a sincere desire to have a thriving and mutually beneficial relationship.

The current sanctions are widely held to target the people not the government and do little to hamper Iran’s ability to import fuel and other resources. The net result is that they have helped Ahmadinejad unite his people to resist intrusive US actions against its nuclear program.

The Iranian regime is relatively immune to sanctions and indeed may benefit from them by using them to engender something of a siege mentality amongst the population. During the Salman Rushdie affair, many argued for greater trade relations with Iran rather than the opposite.

Difficult as it was to make the case for dealing with a regime purportedly prepared to kill a British novelist, it was soon understood that the offer of improved trade relations with Iran would serve to increase economic cooperation between both countries, to the extent that Iranian dependence would prevent hardliners from jeopardising bilateral relations.

It is a strategy which would likely prove beneficial – it would at a stroke demonstrate our commitment to improved relations with Iran, and help to nurture the very middle class entrepreneurial spirit that would challenge Ahmadinejad’s supporters.

Ending embargoes would have benefits in many areas: they would remove the ability of right wing groups such as the IRGC to profit from the black market in hard-to-find goods. It would open the Iranian market to foreign companies, thus engendering a reduction in IRGC monopolies, and it would encourage the development of an emerging middle class which is traditionally closely allied to the presently restrained democratic movement.

Economic and business contacts would give the Iranian regime something to lose, and would be a motivation for continued good relations, and for further reforms.

The West’s reliance on confrontational and punitive rhetoric, rather than more constructive attempts to understand Iran and distinguish between the state and the nation, fails to take account of the complexities it represents. Britain and the West need to free Iran from ‘rogue’ status and come up with a better ‘idea of Iran’.

As Tam Dalyell put it some years ago, ‘The demonising of Iran should be something of the past […] the more locked in we are in commercial relations, the harder it will be for the hardliners to wreck relations’. Labelling Iran as ‘rogue’ and part of an ‘axis of evil’ demonstrably unites the population behind the leadership in defending Iran’s reputation.

In turn, punitive trade sanctions give Iran nothing to lose and serve only to strengthen the hand of the hardliners in the regime. If we continue to punish and to alienate the Iranian government with suggestions of an ‘Axis of Evil’ and the like, we risk strengthening the hand of the neo-conservative proponents of arbitrary rule.

We need to recognise the willingness of much of the population, and sectors within the polity, to pursue a path towards becoming a legitimate member of the international community.


Luke Watson tweets from here: @WatsonPolitics

    Share on Tumblr   submit to reddit  


About the author
This is a guest post.
· Other posts by


Story Filed Under: a) Section ,Foreign affairs ,Middle East

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.


Reader comments


Let’s face it the Iranian theocracy needs Big Satan to justify its existence. When Obama was elected and Ahmedinejad with huge hubris said that the US was a spent force militarily after it became bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan the people thought `well what the fuck do we need you for’ and there was something of an Iranian Spring that almost linked up with the Arab Spring. Unfortunately the continued beligerence of US imperialism and its yapping dog Israeli Zionism allowed the regime to consolidate and it did not go the way of the Moubarak tyranny. If imperialism backed off the regime would not last long but then you can’t have imperialism without semi-colonial tyrannies. The only hope for the people of Iran is if they are somehow able to overturn the regime in favour of secular socialist democracy, announce the end of its nuclear programme and a policy of massive investment in renewals. This will put global public opinion on its side and may, though of course there is no guarantee, prevent imperialism from attacking and killing thousands of Iranians. There is no guaranteed of course because the US imperialists wants a client semi-colonial world not a free Iranian people in a prosperous region.

I’m betting that, in the unlikely event of an invasion of Iran, many of those currently calling for an end to the sanctions will start arguing that we should have stuck with the sanctions because they were working.

That’s what happened with Iraq.

The original version of this article, with all its associated references and analysis, can be found at https://manchesterpoliticshistorytutor.wordpress.com/iran/

Shatterface: Sanctions are only ever a precursor to war. I think most on the left were denouncing the sanctions on Iraq long before the war as they’d cost a million Iraqi lives leaving the people without access to vital medicines and foods whilst allowing the Saddam regime to pose as their defenders. Clearly you are one of those people who think imperialism is a good thing.

I think it is a bit naive to think the Iranian regime is immune to sanctions. What are the sanctions supposed to do? Deprive Iran the ability to accumulate foreign currency for oil. Destroy the value of the Iranian rial through inflation as Ahmadinejad is forced to print money to keep restless groups in the population quiet.

As the population rejects holding the losing value rial, the Ahmadinejad regime is forced to devalue the rial to the black market rate, thus depleting his reserves. Inflation increases and the rial depreciates in a downward spiral. The immiseration of the population eventually causes them to rise up in revolt against the Ahmadinejad regime. That appears to be what the sanctions are trying to achieve. Their currency has lost 80% in value over the last 12 months.

http://www.lobelog.com/irans-economy-after-devaluation/

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-01-26/iran-central-bank-will-devalue-rial-8-5-against-dollar-as-sanctions-bite.html

“Sanctions are only ever a precursor to war.”

Yeah, like with South Africa.

Richard W: This is how so-called `liberal’ capitalism liberates people from tyrants. It blockades, starves, shoots, bombs and nukes them into freedom until all their markets lay open and unprotected or destroyed for the West’s monopoly giants to bulldoze over. Just about every US president since WW2 has been a war criminal.

Right so sanctions won’t work because it strengthens the ‘hard liners’ – are there any soft ones ? – and of course invasion is out because that would be imperialist, so what’s the alternative ? Wait for the Iranian people to remove the regime, well they’ve tried that and look at what happened. This is also assuming that any regime change would result in giving up the nuclear programme, which may be yet more wishful thinking. Of course this is all beside the point as far as a large chunk of the left is concerned, who would be only too happy to see Iran with a nuclear weapon they could threaten Israel with.

Funny too isn’t it how sanctions are never the right option against Islamist and Baath regimes but calls for boycotts against Israel are all the rage.

Pal Joey:

I like your commitment. I don’t share many of your views, but thanks for reading.

Shatterface:

Re. Iran/Iraq – that’s not because ‘the left’ are inconsistent, it’s because diplomacy and democracy are better than sanctions, sanctions are better than war, and UN-mandated action is better than a unilateral invasion predicated on a lie. And I say that with the benefit of hindsight. I was woefully behind the curve 10 years ago, I’m afraid to say. Cheers for reading though.

Richard W:

A well argued piece, thanks. On a minor point, I do say ‘relatively immune’ as there’s no doubt the sanctions hurt. Your point about the rial is well put, but I would refer to your ‘immiseration of the population’ as directly supporting my argument that sanctions hit populations. As for the eventual revolt, I’d love to see that too. But it appears pretty absent even in light of the rial’s 80% loss in value. Thanks for your comments. Luke.

Thornavis:

I’d be inclined to let internal ‘democratic’ forces takes their course. And I by that I would mean a popular uprising or similar. My longer piece argues quite hard for gradual transition to a more moderate clerical regime with greater civil freedoms. Which may well be pie-in-the-sky, but there are definitely ‘non hardliners’ in the Iranian polity (as my longer piece makes clear).

As for Iran having, or choosing to keep, nuclear weapons – I certainly don’t support Iran having them, or using them against Israel. That said, while the UK, USA, Israel and others do have nuclear capability, we don’t have a moral or political leg to stand on. Personally, I’m pretty consistent on the question of approaches to Iran and/or Israel and don’t advocate an anti-Israeli boycott.

I imagine you’d find all of the above to be woolly liberal-leftism, but it’s just how I feel. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

There’s no way I’ll be able to keep these replies up, but Gallbladder: good point. I seem to remember, as a boy, trying to get my mum to avoid buying Cape oranges. Which is very inconsistent of my young self. Cheers.

The sanctions are supposed to hurt the people. The aim is to destabilise the country and fuel opposition movements. It’s no good appealing to the West’s conscience in this matter – it knows exactly what it is doing, and doesn’t care.

Luke

Thanks for your response. I wasn’t suggesting that you were supportive of a boycott of Israel only pointing out that there is bad faith on the part of far too many people who oppose any kind of action against Iran. As for possession of nuclear weapons, regimes like Iran’s or North Korea’s are of a different kind to other nuclear powers none of which are threatening to use their weapons to annihilate their enemies. This is the big problem with Iran, given its support for those who would destroy Israel if they got the chance there is no guarantee that it wouldn’t do something utterly insane once it got nuclear weapons, Israel would be on permanent alert for any sign of an Iranian attack and the likely response would be itself nuclear. Israel has never made any existential threat against any of its enemies but wouldn’t risk allowing an Iranian first strike. The situation is far too dangerous to leave it up to some hoped for triumph of western style liberalism in Iran, a vain hope in my opinion, there are no good options here but sanctions that really bite are probably the least worse.

13. So Much for Subtlety

The current sanctions are widely held to target the people not the government and do little to hamper Iran’s ability to import fuel and other resources. The net result is that they have helped Ahmadinejad unite his people to resist intrusive US actions against its nuclear program.

This looks like a list of specious leftist talking points rather than an argument. Widely held by who exactly? If they hurt the public then by definition they must be hurting the government’s ability to import something. A lot of things in fact. How do you know what the net result is? What is the evidence?

The Iranian regime is relatively immune to sanctions and indeed may benefit from them by using them to engender something of a siege mentality amongst the population.

How do you know? What is Iran’s two biggest exports? Oil and petrochemicals. What are their next two? Carpets and pistachio nuts. In other words, they not only have no economy they are dependent on oil exports for everything. They have no economy apart from oil. That looks like they are far from immune from sanctions.

They may be able to convince Iranians that they are under siege. But it is unlikely. The regime lost the election. They are in power because of their thugs, not because of popular opinion. You may think this is true, but you have given no reason to believe it.

During the Salman Rushdie affair, many argued for greater trade relations with Iran rather than the opposite.

Who? The same people who wanted him killed?

Difficult as it was to make the case for dealing with a regime purportedly prepared to kill a British novelist, it was soon understood that the offer of improved trade relations with Iran would serve to increase economic cooperation between both countries, to the extent that Iranian dependence would prevent hardliners from jeopardising bilateral relations.

And how did that work out then? Oh, the bounty offer still stands. Great news then.

It is a strategy which would likely prove beneficial – it would at a stroke demonstrate our commitment to improved relations with Iran, and help to nurture the very middle class entrepreneurial spirit that would challenge Ahmadinejad’s supporters.

A line that only the most credulous of lick spittles is likely to swallow. Being nice to the Iranians has got us nothing. Sanctions are working. Time to let them work.

Ending embargoes would have benefits in many areas: they would remove the ability of right wing groups such as the IRGC to profit from the black market in hard-to-find goods.

I love that anyone calls the mainstay of the revolution a right wing group. I assume this the author is from some fringe Trot group. Traditionally they are paid by Middle Eastern regimes to churn out tripe like this. I wonder.

It would open the Iranian market to foreign companies, thus engendering a reduction in IRGC monopolies, and it would encourage the development of an emerging middle class which is traditionally closely allied to the presently restrained democratic movement.

Restrained in the sense of all being in jail? How is that working out? The Iranians tried peaceful change. It got them nowhere. There is no reason to think that rewarding the regime will change that.

Economic and business contacts would give the Iranian regime something to lose, and would be a motivation for continued good relations, and for further reforms.

They only have something to lose if we can take it away. Which is precisely what we are doing with sanctions. So we gave them the business. They did not play ball. So we have shown them what they stand to lose. A threat is only worth anything if we have the courage to follow up. Arguing that we should never follow up is asinine.

The West’s reliance on confrontational and punitive rhetoric,

As opposed to the sweetness and light from Tehran?

rather than more constructive attempts to understand Iran and distinguish between the state and the nation, fails to take account of the complexities it represents. Britain and the West need to free Iran from ‘rogue’ status and come up with a better ‘idea of Iran’.

Yeah. Rushdie will be so much safer if we treat it like Sweden. We all understand the distinction between the regime and its people. Do you?

As Tam Dalyell put it some years ago

Now there’s a source.

Labelling Iran as ‘rogue’ and part of an ‘axis of evil’ demonstrably unites the population behind the leadership in defending Iran’s reputation.

There being the slightest evidence that this is so?

In turn, punitive trade sanctions give Iran nothing to lose and serve only to strengthen the hand of the hardliners in the regime.

How much stronger can they be? They do have something to lose – more sanctions. It is up to them if they want to co-operate or not.

If we continue to punish and to alienate the Iranian government with suggestions of an ‘Axis of Evil’ and the like, we risk strengthening the hand of the neo-conservative proponents of arbitrary rule.

All the Trot swear words are out today – they have neo-conservatives in Tehran?

We need to recognise the willingness of much of the population, and sectors within the polity, to pursue a path towards becoming a legitimate member of the international community.

We did. But that path was blocked by the regime. So we need a new policy. We have one. It is working. Time to give it a chance.

14. So Much for Subtlety

7. Pal Joey

This is how so-called `liberal’ capitalism liberates people from tyrants. It blockades, starves, shoots, bombs and nukes them into freedom until all their markets lay open and unprotected or destroyed for the West’s monopoly giants to bulldoze over. Just about every US president since WW2 has been a war criminal.

Wow. Chomskyites are so cute. Not sure that their preferred option of the Khmer Rouge is better, but it is nice they still exist.

10. Luke Watson

I like your commitment.

Sort of says it all really.

Re. Iran/Iraq – that’s not because ‘the left’ are inconsistent, it’s because diplomacy and democracy are better than sanctions, sanctions are better than war, and UN-mandated action is better than a unilateral invasion predicated on a lie.

So we should have dealt with Apartheid through diplomacy? As they were considerably more democratic than Iran is. The Left is inconsistent. It is calling for sanctions on Israel even though diplomacy has hardly been tried and Israel is democratic. They object to sanctions on places like Iran and Cuba even though diplomacy has not worked and there is no democracy.

As for the eventual revolt, I’d love to see that too. But it appears pretty absent even in light of the rial’s 80% loss in value.

It is more present than the chances of Iran moderating if we give them everything they want.

I’d be inclined to let internal ‘democratic’ forces takes their course. And I by that I would mean a popular uprising or similar.

So you’re fine with violence as long as what? White people don’t benefit? It is only Brown people killing other Brown people? Your favourite Trots have a chance of winning? What? One thing that causes misery to a lot of people is civil war. More than sanctions. More than a Western liberation. But you’re fine with it are you?

My longer piece argues quite hard for gradual transition to a more moderate clerical regime with greater civil freedoms. Which may well be pie-in-the-sky, but there are definitely ‘non hardliners’ in the Iranian polity (as my longer piece makes clear).

How do you know and what difference does it make if they cannot take power?

As for Iran having, or choosing to keep, nuclear weapons – I certainly don’t support Iran having them, or using them against Israel. That said, while the UK, USA, Israel and others do have nuclear capability, we don’t have a moral or political leg to stand on.

And there’s the problem with anything you have to say. You cannot see that the legal possession of nuclear weapons is different from Iran’s three decades of lying and breaking of their international obligations – obligations they freely entered into and can renounce at any time.

11. Briar

The sanctions are supposed to hurt the people. The aim is to destabilise the country and fuel opposition movements. It’s no good appealing to the West’s conscience in this matter – it knows exactly what it is doing, and doesn’t care.

Yeah. God forbid anyone might encourage a bad government to fall.

Shatterface: Sanctions are only ever a precursor to war.

I don’t remember invading South Africa in the Eighties but it’s interesting to note that antisemites like you intend on invading Israel after your boycott’s do their work.

I think most on the left were denouncing the sanctions on Iraq long before the war as they’d cost a million Iraqi lives leaving the people without access to vital medicines and foods whilst allowing the Saddam regime to pose as their defenders. Clearly you are one of those people who think imperialism is a good thing.

Clearly you are a fuckwad as nothing I have ever said even hints that I’d support an invasion of Iran – any more than I supported the invasions of Iraq or Afghanistan.

Perhaps you think someone is ‘pulling my strings’.

Re. Iran/Iraq – that’s not because ‘the left’ are inconsistent, it’s because diplomacy and democracy are better than sanctions, sanctions are better than war, and UN-mandated action is better than a unilateral invasion predicated on a lie.

I don’t see whst democracy has to do with this: Iran isn’t a democracy and even if it was Western liberals would ‘t get to cast a vote there.

And without the threat of sanctuons ‘diplomacy’ is toothless.

Shatterface: Oh your strings are being pulled alright. I don’t think Pinochio was aware that he wasn’t a real boy either.

By the by I am not an anti-semite just an anti-zionist and yes I do look forward to the replacement of Israel by a unified secular Palestine but I can see you are of the David Ward school of thinking i.e. the Jews and the zionists are synonymous. Perhaps it is you who is the real anti-semite here.

I’m not in the slightest bit thin-skinned, but I find it amazing that a piece of this sort provokes such anger. It has been suggested above that I am (or that someone is, I can barely tell anymore who’s saying what to whom):

1/ a ‘trot’ – can a piece that argues for increased trade relations really be written by a Marxist? Hardly a ‘War Communism’ position I hold is it…

2/ An ‘anti-Semite’ – I don’t even mention Israel or, more importantly, Jewish people, in the piece. I also don’t support Iran having a nuclear weapon.

3/ Offering unsupported arguments – this is a 500-word opinion piece with no time/space to reference sources. As noted above, the fully researched and referenced piece is available for anyone who wants to read it (15,000 words mind).

The people above who have engaged with the political arguments in my piece have made some good points, well worthy of consideration. If all you’ve done is throw insults around (either at me or people who’ve read the article) perhaps you should write something constructive instead. ‘Trot’, ‘anti-Seimite’ et al are lazy terms and almost always used inaccurately. Anti-semitism is a crime, and should be reserved for such. Not used as a knee-jerk put-down.

19. So Much for Subtlety

18. Luke Watson

1/ a ‘trot’ – can a piece that argues for increased trade relations really be written by a Marxist? Hardly a ‘War Communism’ position I hold is it…

I notice this is not a denial either. And while it is hardly War Communism Marxists hold whatever position suits them at the time. They were in favour of more trade when the Soviet Union was boycotted. As they are with Cuba. Or North Korea for that matter. It depends on the circumstances. What possible circumstances could any sane person argue for relaxing sanctions on Iran? I think most people will go with the obvious.

So for the record, are you now or have you ever been a dues paying member of any political group? If so are they now or have they ever got money from Tehran?

Anti-semitism is a crime, and should be reserved for such. Not used as a knee-jerk put-down.

Reserved for what? Crimes? Anti-semitism shouldn’t be a crime but it should be reserved for anti-semitism. It is not being used as a knee-jerk put down here. It is being used with a high level of accuracy.

At the same time as the IAEA, the internationally recognized nuclear watchdog of the UN, released its most recent critical report of Iran’s nuclear program (see my recent post), Farhad Pouladi from AFP decided to rewrite the news.

A full three quarters of his report were made up of a mere regurgitation of Saeed Jalili’s propaganda:

“Iran has fulfilled its NPT obligations as an active and committed member, therefore (it) should gain all of its rights,” Jalili said in an address to Iranian nuclear industry officials.
read the full post about sanctions against iran


Reactions: Twitter, blogs




Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.