FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Sanctioning Iran

by BEN SCHREINER

Washington’s quest to bring Tehran to its knees continues to accelerate.  And in turn, ordinary Iranians increasingly find themselves caught in the crosshairs.

As the Washington Post reports on the latest round of Iran sanctions signed by President Obama last week, “the new policies are closer to a true trade embargo, designed to systematically attack and undercut Iran’s major financial pillars and threaten the country with economic collapse.”

“The new law imposes sanctions against international companies that do business with Iranian firms in the targeted industrial sectors, and also seeks to block Iran from obtaining aluminum, steel, coal and other materials critical for construction and vehicle manufacturing,” the Post continues.

The order — to conjure the ghost of Nixon — has clearly been given to “make the economy scream.”

In fact, as the New York Times reported back in June, the sanctions on Iran “represent one of the boldest uses of oil sanctions as a tool of coercion since the United States cut off oil exports to Japan in 1940.”

Of course, in the case of Japan, the oil embargo led to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and gave the U.S. the pretext it sought to enter the Second World War.  And for those fixing to attack Iran today, such a history is well understood.  After all, waiting for the “next Pearl Harbor” has long been something of an obsession for U.S. neo-cons. 

Sanctions as an Alternative to War? 

It is often argued, however, that sanctions — imperfect as they are — offer an alternative to war.

As Zbigniew Brzezinski writes in a recent Washington Post op-ed, “a reckless shortcut to war…is not the wisest response to a potentially grave crisis.”  Instead, Brzezinski goes on to argue that, “A more prudent and productive course for the United States would be to continue the painful sanctions against Iran.”

But such arguments by sanction enthusiasts obscure the fact that sanctions are indeed an act of war.  After all, what else are we to call the deliberate crippling of a nation’s economy?  And in any case, if the American economy were made to scream we can be assured there would be American bombs aplenty.

What’s more, though, not only are sanctions clearly an act of war, they often serve as a prelude to an escalated confrontation.  And one certainly need not venture far beyond Iran to find evidence of Washington’s favored sanction today, invade tomorrow strategy. 

“Targeted” Sanctions 

The second lie so often accompanying the use of sanctions is that they are somehow “targeted.”  In the case of Iran, the true nature of the supposedly “targeted” sanctions was exposed well before the latest round of escalation.

As a July letter from the Iranian Hemophilia Society written to the World Health Organization warned, sanctions have “seriously endangered the lives of tens of thousands of patients, particularly children, suffering from special diseases.”

Likewise, in an August report to the United Nation’s General Assembly, U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon wrote that, “The sanctions imposed on the Islamic Republic of Iran have had significant effects on the general population, including an escalation in inflation, a rise in commodities and energy costs, an increase in the rate of unemployment and a shortage of necessary items, including medicine.”

Indeed, as a New York Times piece from early November reported, Iranians “suffering from cancer, hemophilia, thalassemia, kidney problems and other diseases are increasingly told the foreign-made medicines they need are no longer available.”

A recent report in the British Guardian newspaper, meanwhile, has noted that “millions of lives are at risk in Iran because western economic sanctions are hitting the importing of medicines and hospital equipment.”

But such reports have fallen on deaf ears in sanction-happy Washington.  After all, for Washington, ordinary Iranians are legitimate targets.

As U.S. Senator Mark Kirk, a co-sponsor of the latest Iran sanctions bill, once averred, “It’s okay to take the food out of the mouths of” innocent Iranians.

Kirk was of course simply trying his best to channel Madeleine Albright, who, when asked in a 1996 appearance on 60 Minutes whether the half million dead Iraqi children due to sanctions was “worth it,” coolly affirmed that, “I think this is a very hard choice, but the price — we think the price is worth it.”

The “Mafia Principle”

Such examples of the callus thinking of the Washington elite offer clear evidence of what Noam Chomsky deems the “Mafia principle” of U.S. foreign policy at work.

“The Godfather does not tolerate ‘successful defiance’,” Chomsky explains.  “It is too dangerous. It must therefore be stamped out so that others understand that disobedience is not an option.”

The Islamic Republic, of course, is well acquainted with the “Mafia principle,” having fallen under U.S. sanctions since its very inception.  Tehran’s original sin being nothing less than the toppling of the favored American puppet, the Shah.

Yet as Iran’s power in the Middle East has continued to grow, the ire of the Godfather has only mounted.  And the Don’s indignation has found no more reliable outlet than the ratcheting up of punitive economic sanctions — ordinary Iranians be damned.

Such is the punishment for the crime of defiance — the crime of national independence.  As Americans love to say, freedom isn’t free.  Especially, we might add, for non-Americans.

Ben Schreiner is a freelance writer based in Wisconsin.  He may be reached at bnschreiner@gmail.com or via his website.

Ben Schreiner is the author of A People’s Dictionary to the ‘Exceptional Nation’.  He may be reached at bnschreiner@gmail.com or via his blog.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
April 28, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Slandering Populism: a Chilling Media Habit
Andrew Levine
Why I Fear and Loathe Trump Even More Now Than On Election Day
Jeffrey St. Clair
Mountain of Tears: the Vanishing Glaciers of the Pacific Northwest
Philippe Marlière
The Neoliberal or the Fascist? What Should French Progressives Do?
Conn Hallinan
America’s New Nuclear Missile Endangers the World
Vijay Prashad
Reckless in the White House
Brian Cloughley
Who Benefits From Prolonged Warfare?
Ron Jacobs
Hate Speech as Free Speech: How Does That Work, Exactly?
Andre Vltchek
Middle Eastern Surgeon Speaks About “Ecology of War”
Matt Rubenstein
Which Witch Hunt? Liberal Disanalogies
Sami Awad - Yoav Litvin - Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb
Never Give Up: Nonviolent Civilian Resistance, Healing and Active Hope in the Holyland
Pete Dolack
Tribunal Finds Monsanto an Abuser of Human Rights and Environment
Christopher Ketcham
The Coyote Hunt
Ramzy Baroud
Palestinian, Jewish Voices Must Jointly Challenge Israel’s Past
Ralph Nader
Trump’s 100 Days of Rage and Rapacity
Harvey Wasserman
Marine Le Pen Is a Fascist—Not a ‘Right-Wing Populist,’ Which Is a Contradiction in Terms
William Hawes
World War Whatever
John Stanton
War With North Korea: No Joke
Jim Goodman
NAFTA Needs to be Replaced, Not Renegotiated
Murray Dobbin
What is the Antidote to Trumpism?
Louis Proyect
Left Power in an Age of Capitalist Decay
Medea Benjamin
Women Beware: Saudi Arabia Charged with Shaping Global Standards for Women’s Equality
Rev. William Alberts
Selling Spiritual Care
Peter Lee
Invasion of the Pretty People, Kamala Harris Edition
Cal Winslow
A Special Obscenity: “Guernica” Today
Binoy Kampmark
Turkey’s Kurdish Agenda
Guillermo R. Gil
The Senator Visits Río Piedras
Jeff Mackler
Mumia Abu-Jamal Fights for a New Trial and Freedom 
Cesar Chelala
The Responsibility of Rich Countries in Yemen’s Crisis
Leslie Watson Malachi
Women’s Health is on the Chopping Block, Again
Basav Sen
The Coal Industry is a Job Killer
Judith Bello
Rojava, a Popular Imperial Project
Robert Koehler
A Public Plan for Peace
Jesse Jackson
Jeff Sessions is Rolling Back Basic Rights
Nyla Ali Khan
There Has to be a Way Out of the Labyrinth
Rivera Sun
Blind Slogans and Shallow Greatness
Michael J. Sainato
Trump Scales Back Antiquities Act, Which Helped to Create National Parks
Stu Harrison
Under Duterte, Filipino Youth Struggle for Real Change
David Penner
When Patient Rights Do Not Exist
Martin Billheimer
Balm for Goat’s Milk
Stephen Martin
Spooky Cookies and Algorithmic Steps Dystopian
Michael Doliner
Thank You Note
Charles R. Larson
Review: Gregor Hens’ “Nicotine”
April 27, 2017
Darlene Dubuisson – Mark Schuller
“You Live Under Fear”: 50,000 Haitian People at Risk of Deportation
Karl Grossman
The Crash of Cassini and the Nuclearization of Space
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail