Americans aren’t the only ones shocked by U.S. Congressman Ron Paul’s assertion that international sanctions against Iran qualify as an “act of war.”
The Texas Congressman has made the assertion several times during the past few years, and reiterated it last night during the Republican debates in Florida when he argued that the U.S. had committed an act of war by “blockading” Iran (which the U.S. is not doing).
“We’re blockading them,” Paul said to a Tampa audience. “Can you imagine what we would do if someone blockaded the Gulf of Mexico? That would be an act of war–so the act of war has already been committed and this is retaliation.”
But Amir Fakhravar, a pro-democracy freedom fighter who was imprisoned and tortured by the Islamic Republic, disagrees.
Fakhravar, who spoke to Big Government today, says: “Sanctions weaken the government so much it will eventually empower the people of Iran to change their own regime without war,” and added that “Ron Paul’s foreign policy toward the Islamic Republic is wrong. If we don’t have hard sanctions against the regime they will have more money to buy weapons, and then we will definitely have war.”
Fakhravar was imprisoned in 2002 for calling to rescind the powers of the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, and the Council of Guardians. During part of his sentence he was taken to a military detention camp where he underwent the first known example of “white torture.” He escaped in 2006 and came to the United States. Fakhravar is now a Research Fellow and Visiting Lecturer at the Center for the Study of Culture and Security at The Institute of World Politics in Washington, D.C.
“If the United States lifts sanctions and Iran eventually gets the bomb, that means war,” he added.
Paul’s argument presents problems under international law and from a historical perspective. First, under international law sanctions are not considered “acts of war.” Second, if any incident can be pinpointed as the first “act of war” between the blossoming Islamic Republic and the United States it was the November 4, 1979 violent takeover of the American Embassy by pro-revolutionary student radicals.
Ron Paul has argued in the past that the United States is responsible for acts of war against Iran, and even implied during the December Iowa Caucus that Iran was justified in building it’s nuclear program to “gain respect from (Israel).”
Prior to the passage of the “Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act of 2010,” Paul took the floor at the U.S. House of Representatives and argued that America’s threat not to trade with countries that traded with Iran was also an act of war.
Paul said the following:
Sanctions are very serious. Sanctions are literally an act of war–when you prevent certain goods and services going into a country, it’s like a blockade. There’s no advantage to us to do this. The sanction bill literally says that any country that trades or sends oil into Iran, we would no longer trade with them… so often well intentioned foreign policy procedures backfire they have unintended consequences and too often there’s blowback… Sanctions lead to hostilities. If you’re committing to sanctions then you’re committing to the next step… The sanctions on the 1990’s and the year 2000, the sanctions in Iraq eventually led to the hostilities and the war and the invasion.
Yet the United States is not the only entity that has implemented sanctions against the Islamic Republic.
On June 9, 2010, the United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 1929 implementing restrictions on missiles and other materials that could be used to build destructive weapons in the post-revolutionary state.
U.S. sanctions began in 1979 after the embassy takeover when President Carter implemented Executive Order 12170 freezing $12 billion in Iranian assets, and during the 1980’s, President Reagan implemented a number of sanctions against the Islamic Republic ranging from weapons trading bans to the importation and exportation of goods.
Still, Paul blames the United States for responding appropriately to the violent, anti-American hostilities that the fundamentalist revolution has fostered ever since the overthrow of the Shah and the Islamic Revolution of 1979.
The United States of America has not committed an act of war against Iran. Her actions have been cautiously measured in response to violent hostilities and threats repeatedly emanating from a hostile and oppressive regime that has been fundamentally anti-American from its origin. If the U.S. does not enforce sanctions against Iran it only increases the chances of an actual “hot war” since the Islamic Republic has repeatedly made threats against America and Israel.