FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

How US Sanctions are Hurting Iran: A Firsthand Report

On a recent delegation to Iran, we experienced first-hand the legendary Iranian hospitality. Iranians are particularly thrilled to meet Americans, but as we discovered, our government’s policies are hurting the very people who want to be our friends.

As our 28-person delegation traveled through the country wearing messages on our jackets proclaiming “Peace with Iran” in English and Farsi, we were surrounded by people—from schoolchildren to storekeepers—who wanted to practice their English and talk to us. Their eyes lit up when they heard we were from America. We were constantly posing for photos and exchanging Instagram accounts. We were offered endless cups of sweet tea and showered with more gifts than we could fit in our suitcases.

A frequent refrain we heard was, “Americans good, Trump bad.” We did meet a few Trump supporters. At one roadside shop outside Tehran, we were shocked to find an entire collection of Donald Trump’s books for sale, in Farsi. One book buyer said Trump was good because would help get rid of the awful clerics who were running Iran. Most people, however, whether they liked or hated their own government, complained that US policies were not hurting the government or the wealthy, but the middle class and the poor.

In May 2018, President Trump’s unilaterally withdrew from the Iran nuclear agreement, followed by an imposition of draconian sanctions that not only prohibit U.S. companies from doing business in Iran, but threaten all foreign companies and international banks that trade with Iran. The sanctions also severely limit Iran’s ability to sell its major source of revenue: oil.

The U.S. sanctions, along with mismanagement and corruption, has decimated the value of the rial and sent the prices of consumer goods soaring. As one of our guides told us, “Our bank savings have been wiped out, rents go up every month, and the price of food increases every single day, while most salaries stay the same.” At a roadside stop outside the Tomb of Cyrus the Great, the wife of the tea vendor told us how her family’s standard of living has plummeted in the past year. “We used to be able to afford a car, now we can’t even afford a refrigerator,” she lamented. Visiting a school for poor children in the southern part of Tehran, we learned that the number of street children has increased, particularly in households headed by single women.

Sanctions are suffocating people’s life choices. A young woman who had been accepted to college in London with a full scholarship had to decline the offer because her family could no longer even afford her plane ticket. “I had so many hopes and dreams,” she said. “Now I have nothing.” A young man told us he cancelled his plans to get married because the couple can’t afford the wedding costs. He is not alone. “The families of many girls can’t afford a decent dowry, which is our custom here,” he explained, “while many young men feel their salaries are no longer sufficient to provide for a family.”

The US government says medicines are exempt from sanctions but with banks, shipping and insurance companies unwilling to risk doing business with Iran, certain life-saving drugs have become scarce. Our interpreter teared up when an elderly man in the marketplace told us his wife has cancer and he can no longer find the interferon she desperately needs. A man with diabetes said he can’t find the medicine to lower his glucose levels and now must undergo painful dialysis treatments to stay alive.

“If Trump thinks he is hurting our government, he is wrong. Rouhani can eat meat every day and so can the clerics,” a father of three told me. “I’m lucky if I can give my children a decent meal once a week. It is one thing for governments to have differences, but why impose hardships on innocent people?”

The Trump administration’s gamble that tough sanctions will either topple the government or force it to change its regional policies is not working. It certainly seems like the Islamic government, which just celebrated 40 years in power, is not about to fall. Caught between a well-oiled repressive apparatus and fear of a Syria-type upheaval, most people we met preferred reforms within the present system to an abrupt regime change that might plunge the country into chaos—and they certainly did not want a US-military intervention.

Trump’s policies, however, are putting the reformers under siege. When our group met with Foreign Minister Javad Zarif on February 25, the day before his short-lived resignation, he made it clear that he was under intense pressure to show positive results from his outreach to the West. Trump’s economic strangulation is hurting all those who, like Zarif, staked their reputations on negotiations and it is shoring up hardliners who always insisted that talks with the West were futile. With new parliamentary elections coming up on 2020, these hardliners may well take power. U.S. warhawks like John Bolton, and Trump’s Israeli and Saudi allies, could use their return to power as a reason to push for a U.S. military attack on Iran.

Rejoining the Iran nuclear agreement, lifting sanctions, and developing normal trade and diplomatic relations with Iran would empower the reformists and engage Iran in solving the conflicts that continue to plague the region. It would also ease the hardships affecting the extraordinarily gracious people who welcomed us with such open arms.

More articles by:

Medea Benjamin is the co-founder of the peace group CODEPINK and the human right organization Global Exchange. Follow her on twitter at @MedeaBenjamin.

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
March 30, 2020
Marshall Auerback
Washington Uses the Pandemic to Create a $2 Trillion Slush Fund for Its Cronies
Ron Jacobs
Going After Maduro
Justin Podur
When Economists Try to Solve Health Crises, the Results Can Often be Disastrous
Thomas Knapp
Decarceration: COVID-19 is Opportunity Knocking
Arshad Khan - Meena Miriam Yust
Dying Planet and a Virus Unleashed
William Astore
How My Dad Predicted the Decline of America
Seth Sandronsky
Reclaiming Vacant Homes in the COVID-19 Pandemic
John G. Russell
Racial Profiling Disorder: the All-American Pandemic
Vijay Prashad, Paola Estrada, Ana Maldonado, and Zoe PC
As the World Tackles the COVID-19 Pandemic, the U.S. Raises the Pressure on Venezuela
Laura Flanders
Covid-19: Our Health Crisis is Born of Bigotry
Cesar Chelala
The New World of Coronavirus
Lawrence Wittner
The World’s Major Military and Economic Powers Find Happiness Elusive
Ted Rall
My Dead French Grandfather Helped Me with COVID-19
Rob Okun
A Citizens’ Call to Invoke the Twenty-fifth Amendment
Ashar Foley
COVID-19 Proves It: We Need Medicare-for-All
Robert Koehler
The Virus is Our Teacher
Wim Laven
Are You Prepared to Needlessly Die for Your Country?
Jill Richardson
Stay Home, Stay Angry
ADRIAN KUZMINSKI
What’s Wrong with Ranked Choice Voting
Mike Garrity
Alliance for the Wild Rockies Sues Trump’s Bureau of Reclamation for Bull Trout Fatalities in Saint Mary-Milk River Irrigation Project on the east Side of Glacier National Park
Weekend Edition
March 27, 2020
Friday - Sunday
Rob Urie
Bailouts for the Rich, the Virus for the Rest of Us
Louis Proyect
Life and Death in the Epicenter
Paul Street
“I Will Not Kill My Mother for Your Stock Portfolio”
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: The Scum Also Rises
Pam Martens - Russ Martens
Stimulus Bill Allows Federal Reserve to Conduct Meetings in Secret; Gives Fed $454 Billion Slush Fund for Wall Street Bailouts
Jefferson Morley
Could the Death of the National Security State be a Silver Lining of COVID-19?
Ruth Hopkins
A Message For America from Brazil’s First Indigenous Congresswoman
Kathleen Wallace
The End of the Parasite Paradigm
Anthony DiMaggio
Misinformation and the Coronavirus: On the Dangers of Depoliticization and Social Media
Andrew Levine
Neither Biden Nor Trump: Imagine Cuomo
David Rosen
God’s Vengeance: the Christian Right and the Coronavirus
Evaggelos Vallianatos
In the Grip of Disease
David Schultz
The Covid-19 Bailout: Another Failed Opportunity at Structural Change
Edward Leer
Somebody Else’s World: An Interview with Kelly Reichardt
Robert Fisk
What Trump is Doing in the Middle East While You are Distracted by COVID-19
Daniel Warner
COVID-19: Health or Wealth?
Thomas Klikauer – Norman Simms
Corona in Germany: Hording and Authoritarianism
Ramzy Baroud
BJP and Israel: Hindu Nationalism is Ravaging India’s Democracy
Richard Moser
Russia-gate: the Dead But Undead
Ron Jacobs
Politics, Pandemics and Trumpism
Chris Gilbert
Letter From Catalonia: Alarming Measures
Richard Eskow
Seven Rules for the Boeing Bailout
Jonathan Carp
Coronavirus and the Collapse of Our Imaginations
Andrew Bacevich
The Coronavirus and the Real Threats to American Safety and Freedom
Peter Cohen
COVID-19, the Exponential Function and Human the Survival
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail