Friday, August 3, 2012

The Blowback of Iran Sanctions

An excellent piece by Mohammad Sadeghi Esfahlani and Jamal Abdiat at Foreign Policy makes a strong case that the US-led/Israel-endorsed sanctions against Iran are forcing Iranians, not toward regime change, but into the arms of the regime.   The middle class who had been the backbone of the Green Movement have become impoverished by the damage sanctions have wrought on the Iranian economy.  Meanwhile, the less educated and more traditional elements of Iranian society who are forced to turn to the regime for assistance become easier targets for the demagoguery of the right-wing religious leadership.  

The authors note:

The leaders of the Green Movement and Iranian human rights and democracy defenders have adamantly opposed broad sanctions and warned that confrontation, isolation and broad economic punishment only undermine the cause of democracy and rule of law in Iran. A new report by the International Civil Society Action Network (ICAN) documents how sanctions are destroying the sources of societal change in Iran.  "The urban middle class that has historically played a central role in creating change and promoting progress in Iran are key casualties of the sanctions regime," according to the report. 

As documented by the report's firsthand account on the ground, sanctions are not driving the working class to join Iran's democracy movement, they are doing the opposite -- decimating the Iranian middle class, that has been at the center of the democracy movement, by intensifying their economic struggles. The greatest impediment for Iran's pro-democracy movement -- as we saw at the height of the Green Movement protests in 2009 -- has been that working class Iranians who are preoccupied with immediate financial struggles are unable to enlist in a struggle for political freedoms. 

The above-referenced report ( "Killing them Softly: The Stark Impact of Sanctions on the Lives of Ordinary Iranians") details much of the on-the-ground effects that sanctions are having on the populace.

This is, of course, terribly reminiscent of the downward spiral of Iraq's economy and society in the wake of the sanctions imposed by the UN from 1990 till 2003.  The impact of those sanctions - and the role of the US in sustaining them even in the face of overwhelming evidence of the horror they produced - has now been documented copiously, and damningly, by people such as Joy Gordon, who noted in a Foreign Policy essay in 2010:

It is hard to look at the current sanctions on Gaza and Iran without recalling the Iraq sanctions regime -- both the structural damage and pettiness. It seems that what the U.S. has learned from Iraq was to claim that it now employs "smart sanctions," which will never do the kind of broad damage as we saw in Iraq. Yet the "smart sanctions" on Iran target Iran's oil and gas industries, the national shipping lines, and Iran's banking system.  If the U.S. or UN sanctions are successful, the damage to Iran's economy, and its population as a whole, will be enormous, and indiscriminate. As we hear that Israel will now allow potato chips and juice into Gaza, it is hard to fathom how anyone could rationalize that these ever presented a threat to Israel's security. But above all what we should know from Iraq is this: that causing destitution in distant lands does not make the world a better place, or make the United States, or anyone else, more secure.

Gordon wrote that two years ago.  The sanctions against Iran have done much more damage since then.  And as Israel and Mitt Romney continue to thunder on about bombing Iran's nuclear infrastructure, let's bear in mind that if that comes to pass, it likely will not bring down the regime nor result in a military victory followed by unconditional surrender.  Rather, the Iranian people - even more greatly traumatized - will struggle on . . . and our Congress will likely demand even harsher sanctions that will further impoverish and immiserate them.  

They will also create thousands more enemies for the US abroad . . . and perhaps hasten the day of another 9-11-type attack against the "homeland."


No comments:


Blog Archive

Cluster map

Search This Blog

ICAHD - 18,000 Homes Campaign (large banner)