World View: Are Iranian Sanctions Harming Civilians and Accomplishing Nothing?

This morning's key headlines from
  • Accusations increase that sanctions are harming innocent Iranian civilians
  • What's the purpose of sanctions?
  • Switzerland may be preparing for war
  • France says military intervention will begin 'in a matter of weeks'

Accusations increase that sanctions are harming innocent Iranian civilians

The European Union Foreign Affairs Council this week significantly broadened the sanctions against Iran, hoping to force Iran to give up it's nuclear development program. The new European measures include a general ban on financial transactions, with some exceptions for those involving humanitarian aid and provisions for legitimate trade. However, human rights groups are saying that millions of lives re at risk in Iran because the western economic sanctions are hitting the importing of medicines and hospital equipment. According to U.N. secretary-general Ban Ki-moon: 

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.

The sanctions also appear to be affecting humanitarian operations in the country," he wrote. "Even companies that have obtained the requisite licence to import food and medicine are facing difficulties in finding third-country banks to process the transactions.

Britain's Foreign Office responded:

We've been clear that financial sanctions against Iran are not intended to affect humanitarian goods and payments. That's why the UK argued for and secured specific exemptions to allow humanitarian transactions to take place.

Whilst it is true that sanctions are having an impact on the Iranian population, this is compounded by the Iranian government's economic mismanagement. Iran's leaders are responsible for any impact on their people and can make the choices which would bring sanctions to an end.

The sanctions are being blamed for the collapse of the rial currency, which has lost some 80% of its value against the dollar since 2011. This has dramatically affected the lives of ordinary Iranians, as most imported goods, including things as varied as meat, oil, sugar, tires and car parts have doubled in price in the last few months. Reuters and Guardian

What's the purpose of sanctions?

Most people who laud the use of sanctions point to the claimed success for sanctions that were imposed on Poland and South Africa in the last few decades. 

Before coming back to those examples, let's look at some examples where sanctions did NOT work:

  • On July 25, 1941, President Roosevelt signed an executive order freezing Japanese assets in the United States, and imposing an oil embargo. 4-1/2 months later, the Japanese air force bombed Pearl Harbor. I guess we'd have to say that those sanctions didn't work.
  • The West has imposed harsh sanctions on North Korea, to convince them to abandon their nuclear program. North Korea has responded by testing nuclear weapons. I guess those sanctions didn't work either.
  • China has been imposing strong economic sanctions against Japan in the last few months, in order to force Japan to give up their claim to the Senkaku islands. But Japan shows no signs of acquiescing.

Japan in 1941, as well as Japan and North Korea today, were/are in generational Crisis eras, a time when nationalism increases sharply. So sanctions really cannot work during Crisis eras, since they will only trigger a strong nationalistic response and countermeasures. 

So what about President Ronald Reagan's sanctions against Poland and South Africa? Supporters claim that the sanctions brought democracy to Poland and ended apartheid in South Africa. But those sanctions occurred during generational Awakening or Unraveling eras, when nationalism is extremely low. The move to democracy in Poland and the end of apartheid in South Africa are fairly typical Awakening era climaxes. America's most recent Awakening era climax was the resignation of President Richard Nixon in 1974, and of course that happened without any country imposing sanctions.

So what about Iran today? Iran is in a generational Awakening era, and there is little or no nationalism in the country. Does that mean that the sanctions are going to bring about regime change in Iran?

What is certain is that Iran is headed for some kind of Awakening era climax, irrespective of whether there are sanctions, and that Awakening era climax will almost certainly involve regime change of some kind. When that happens, the politicians in the West will pat themselves on the back and congratulate themselves and each other for bringing about regime change, even though they had nothing to do with it.

Could it be argued that the sanctions are speeding up regime change? I know of no evidence to that effect. To the contrary, it could easily be argued that sanctions are interfering with the normal Awakening era political process in Iran, and are actually DELAYING regime change. And they certainly aren't stopping Iran's nuclear program.

So what's the point of sanctions on Iran?

The most likely answer can be found in Israel's prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu's praise for the new sanctions:

These sanctions are hitting the Iranian economy hard, (but) they haven’t yet rolled back the Iranian program. We'll know that they're achieving their goal when the centrifuges stop spinning and when the Iranian nuclear program is rolled back.

Without the sanctions, domestic politics would force Netanyahu to bomb Iran. The sanctions provide a method for "kicking the can down the road," and allowing politicians in Israel, America and Europe to say that they're doing something, without having to declare war. But in terms of their stated objectives -- to force Iran to end its nuclear program, and to do so without harming civilians -- they're useless failures. Jewish Telegraphic Agency

Switzerland may be preparing for war

According to a Russian analysis, the Swiss Army is preparing contingency plans for violent unrest across Europe. The analysis is based on military exercises conducted by Switzerland's army in September. As the euro crisis deepens, Switzerland fears widespread unrest across Europe, and particularly fears a massive influx of Greek and Italian refugees pouring into Switzerland. The Swiss are pressing ahead to modernize the 200,000 man army despite political opposition. Russia Today

France says military intervention will begin 'in a matter of weeks'

An international meeting will be held on Friday in Bamako, the capital of Mali, to discuss the strategy for military intervention in northern Mali, where al-Qaeda linked Ansar Dine terrorists have taken control. France's defense minister Jean-Yves Le Drian says that the intervention could happen in "a matter of weeks, not months, weeks." The intention is that the 3,300 troops would be supplied by the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas), with logistical and financial support from France and possibly the U.S. However, many people doubt that anything close to such an ambitious timetable can possibly occur. 3,300 troops is far too few to displace the northern Mali terrorists, and the forces are ill equipped and not trained to fight in a huge desert like northern Mali. Most likely, the 3,300 troops would simply flee back to their home countries. All that notwithstanding, the Mali situation is serious, and it's increasingly likely that Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) will gain control of the region, and use it as a base for terrorist attacks into Algeria, Morocco and Europe. VOA and All Africa

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