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

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 significantlybroadened the sanctions against Iran, hoping to force Iran to give upit’s nuclear development program. The new European measures include ageneral ban on financial transactions, with some exceptions for thoseinvolving humanitarian aid and provisions for legitimate trade.However, human rights groups are saying that millions of lives re atrisk in Iran because the western economic sanctions are hitting theimporting of medicines and hospital equipment. According toU.N. secretary-general Ban Ki-moon: 

The sanctions imposed on the Islamic Republic of Iranhave had significant effects on the general population, includingan escalation in inflation, a rise in commodities and energycosts, an increase in the rate of unemployment and a shortage ofnecessary items, including medicine.

The sanctions also appear to be affecting humanitarian operationsin the country,” he wrote. “Even companies that have obtained therequisite licence to import food and medicine are facingdifficulties in finding third-country banks to process thetransactions.

Britain’s Foreign Office responded:

We’ve been clear that financial sanctions againstIran are not intended to affect humanitarian goods andpayments. That’s why the UK argued for and secured specificexemptions to allow humanitarian transactions to take place.

Whilst it is true that sanctions are having an impact on theIranian population, this is compounded by the Iranian government’seconomic mismanagement. Iran’s leaders are responsible for anyimpact on their people and can make the choices which would bringsanctions 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 mostimported goods, including things as varied as meat, oil, sugar, tiresand 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 successfor sanctions that were imposed on Poland and South Africa in the lastfew decades. 

Before coming back to those examples, let’s look at some exampleswhere 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 ingenerational Crisis eras, a time when nationalism increases sharply.So sanctions really cannot work during Crisis eras, since they willonly trigger a strong nationalistic response and countermeasures. 

So what about President Ronald Reagan’s sanctions against Poland andSouth Africa? Supporters claim that the sanctions brought democracyto Poland and ended apartheid in South Africa. But those sanctionsoccurred during generational Awakening or Unraveling eras, whennationalism is extremely low. The move to democracy in Poland and theend of apartheid in South Africa are fairly typical Awakening eraclimaxes. America’s most recent Awakening era climax was theresignation of President Richard Nixon in 1974, and of course thathappened 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 meanthat the sanctions are going to bring about regime change in Iran?

What is certain is that Iran is headed for some kind of Awakening eraclimax, irrespective of whether there are sanctions, and that Awakening eraclimax will almost certainly involve regime change of some kind.When that happens, the politicians in the West will pat themselves onthe back and congratulate themselves and each other for bringing aboutregime 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 couldeasily be argued that sanctions are interfering with the normalAwakening era political process in Iran, and are actually DELAYINGregime change. And they certainly aren’t stopping Iran’s nuclearprogram.

So what’s the point of sanctions on Iran?

The most likely answer can be found in Israel’s prime ministerBenjamin 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 knowthat they’re achieving their goal when the centrifuges stopspinning and when the Iranian nuclear program is rolled back.

Without the sanctions, domestic politics would force Netanyahu to bombIran. The sanctions provide a method for “kicking the can down theroad,” and allowing politicians in Israel, America and Europe to saythat they’re doing something, without having to declare war. But interms of their stated objectives — to force Iran to end its nuclearprogram, and to do so without harming civilians — they’re uselessfailures. Jewish Telegraphic Agency

Switzerland may be preparing for war

According to a Russian analysis, the Swiss Army is preparingcontingency plans for violent unrest across Europe. The analysis isbased on military exercises conducted by Switzerland’s army inSeptember. As the euro crisis deepens, Switzerland fears widespreadunrest across Europe, and particularly fears a massive influx of Greekand Italian refugees pouring into Switzerland. The Swiss are pressingahead 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 capitalof Mali, to discuss the strategy for military intervention in northernMali, where al-Qaeda linked Ansar Dine terrorists have taken control.France’s defense minister Jean-Yves Le Drian says that theintervention could happen in “a matter of weeks, not months, weeks.”The intention is that the 3,300 troops would be supplied by theEconomic Community of West African States (Ecowas), with logisticaland financial support from France and possibly the U.S. However, manypeople doubt that anything close to such an ambitious timetable canpossibly occur. 3,300 troops is far too few to displace the northernMali terrorists, and the forces are ill equipped and not trained tofight in a huge desert like northern Mali. Most likely, the 3,300troops would simply flee back to their home countries. All thatnotwithstanding, the Mali situation is serious, and it’s increasinglylikely that Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) will gain controlof the region, and use it as a base for terrorist attacks intoAlgeria, Morocco and Europe. VOA and All Africa

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