US Sanctions and Iran

Scott Lucas, Prof.


Throughout the Iran crisis, we have referred to US-based efforts to manipulate the conflict for a much different objective: confronting Iran over its nuclear programme.


Part of our annoyance is that this objective — whether cynical or disingenuous — demeans the issues of importance to Iranians. There is potentially, however a damaging economic costs. US Congressmen and other politicians, and behind them pro-Israeli lobbies, are pressing for expanded sanctions. In particular, they are hoping to cripple Iran by limiting its imports of refined petroleum products.


In a superb analysis, Patrick Disney of the National Iranian American Council illustrates how this move would not punish the Iranian regime but those “ordinary” Iranians whom US political activists claim to support:


When All You Have is a Hammer, Every Iran Problem Looks Like a Nail


For most of the month of August, Congress will be on recess. Consider this
the calm before the storm.

Most in Washington are aware that September will bring with it the biggest push for Iran sanctions in years. AIPAC has been lobbying for months on the Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act (IRPSA), and on September 10 the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations will kick off a massive nationwide lobbying effort, which they compare to the “Save Darfur” movement. All of this will culminate at the end of the month when, conveniently enough, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad arrives in New York for the UN. General Assembly.

Yes, right around the time Ahmadinejad is at the podium in the UN, Congress is expected to impose what it calls “crippling sanctions” on Iran’s economy. The plan is to blockade Iran’s foreign supplies of gasoline, hoping that an increase in the price per gallon at the pump will cause the Iranian people to rise up and demand a halt to Iran’s nuclear program.

But this plan has number of obvious flaws.

First, the Iranian people have already risen up against the government’s hardline leadership. What we have witnessed in Iran for the last two months is unprecedented. To think that marginally higher gas prices will mean anything to a population willing to risk their lives for freedom and democracy is at once naïve and hubristic. According to Juan Cole, imposing broad sanctions on Iran will likely only destroy Iranian civil society and bolster the state’s repressive apparatus–as it did in Iraq.

What’s more, even if the Iranian people were to demand that the government halt its enrichment program–which they wouldn’t, since the vast majority of Iranians support Iran’s right to peaceful nuclear technology–does anyone think that the government will actually go along with it? Has Tehran been particularly responsive to the wishes of its citizens lately? No, in fact, that is what these people are fighting for each and every day: to have their voices heard.

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