Woodrow Wilson once said that, “A nation that is boycotted is a nation that is in sight of surrender. Apply this economic, peaceful, silent, deadly remedy and there will be no need for force. It is a terrible remedy. It does not cost a life outside the nation boycotted, but it brings a pressure upon the nation which, in my judgment, no modern nation could resist.” Rebutting the same, decades later, Omar Bongo, former President of Gabon, argued against the use sanctions, commenting, “...It is important to observe that when Europe or the United Nations impose sanctions that are supposed to be aimed against a certain regime, usually millions of people end up being directly punished.” With time, the very objective of sanctions has undergone a full transformation – today, sanctions are used mostly for strategic gains than anything else.
The United States and its allies (particularly Israel) are closing in on Iran! With a thumping majority (100-0), the US Senate last month approved sanctions prohibiting foreign financial institutions from undertaking any business with the Central Bank of Iran. After a series of sanctions that have been regularly imposed on and off, the US government’s latest sanctions against Iran (signed into law by US President Obama on December 31, 2011, as a part of the act titled H.R. 1540, the “National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012”) are clearly the strictest ever. In his official statement on H.R. 1540, available at the White House website, Obama uses the word ‘military’ 14 times, with ‘defense’ being used only 9 times – this makes the aim of the law very evident! For records, more than 15 sanctions have been imposed on Iran till date!
Post the latest set of sanctions, the Iranian national currency – Rial – immediately lost its value by almost 15-20 per cent and is currently being exchanged at its lowest-ever rate of around 17,000-17,500 Rials to a dollar. The sanctions curtail other countries too from buying Iranian crude oil. The US through the latest sanctions can also debar parties that are trading with the Central Bank of Iran from having correspondent banking operations in the United States.
The National Defence Authorization Act (NDAA) has been passed by President Obama with an ensured funding of $662 billion that apart from imposing sanctions on Iran will also review Iran’s military capabilities. This is of utmost importance in case US plans to wage a war against Iran in the near future! Not surprisingly, all this is amalgamated with one of NDAA’s main objectives – which is to ensure energy security of NATO.
The most audacious part of the Act is that NDAA has unilaterally slapped these sanctions in such a manner that it can impose penalties on any third party that dares to trade with the Iranian Central Bank! The official aim of this sanction, as cited by the US administration, is very basic, yet highly tactical – Iran’s revenue streams are expected to be stifled, and consequently Iran is expected to have no money to advance its nuclear program! However, such a reasoning seems silly and juvenile! How on the earth would US be able to strangle Iran from achieving its nuclear ambition when they have gloriously failed in the past to deter even poor and impoverished countries like North Korea from developing nuclear weapons, in spite of imposing several sanctions on these nations? The situation may soon boil up to a scenario that resembles the implication of Iraq in the 1990s. Failing to ruin Iraq through sanctions, US ultimately resorted to war.
As I mentioned earlier, this is not the first time that America has targeted Iran. On June 9, 2010, the Obama administration had slapped extremely hard sanctions on Iran; banning the delivery of major military equipment to Iran and prohibiting international financial and asset transactions of Iranian corporations. In fact, Iran is not the lone target of America in the region as Syria has been party to the NATO’s ire and has been facing sanctions since 1986. A month and a half ago, the European Union and United States imposed new and renewed sanctions on Syria on the ground of suppression of its rebels, but interestingly remained silent on the same kind of repression in Yemen and Bahrain!
US has always imposed sanctions and embargoes on the pretext of national security and eventually invaded the target nations after making them economically and politically weak. Iraq has been a crying example of the same. And in Iran’s case, neither has US been able to prove any negative use of the atomic and nuclear facilities that Iran possesses (the International Atomic Energy Agency has no concrete evidence against Iran), nor were they ever able to prove the presence of WMDs (Weapons of Mass Destruction) some years back in Iraq. The entire fable created around WMDs in Iraq ended with a mere apology from America’s end.
As a matter of fact, the perpetrators of 9/11 were Saudi and Pakistani nationals. Pakistan is internationally infamous for harbouring numerous terror groups and was shamefully responsible for providing sanctuary to even Osama Bin Laden. But neither Saudi Arabia nor Pakistan had to face sanctions post 9/11 like those being faced by Iran. Reason? They have been following US diktats word by word! And the lesser said about Taliban, the better for the US, as it’s quite well accepted that the Taliban has been America’s own creation.
The US trade embargo against Cuba is five decades old and was described as “ineffective and detrimental” by Obama himself in September 2010. Pakistan also did face military sanctions much before by the US (a 15 year embargo that ran from 1990 to 2005 on the sale of F-16 fighter/bomber aircraft); but that didn’t deter the country from purchasing weapons from elsewhere. In similar lines, sanctions have had results quite opposite the objectives for which they were enacted. Human rights abuse and societal demotion were strongly visible in nations like South Africa (faced sanctions between 1960s-1970s), Haiti (1990-1994), Iraq (1990-2003) and the former Yugoslavia (1992) and went against the very objective of the sanctions that aimed at protecting of human rights. The arms embargo imposed on South Africa (during the 1960s) was also found to be counter-productive. The then Pretoria regime responded to the sanctions by developing a large-scale domestic weapons industry called Armaments Corporation of South Africa (Armscor). Similarly, the sanctions on Yugoslavia didn’t prevent the Bosnian war and eventually pushed the nation into poverty and destitution.
The sanctions on the so called rogue nations like Cuba, Iran, Zimbabwe, or North Korea have added only to the miseries of their impoverished citizens rather than trouble the government. Sanctions could not overthrow any government anywhere in the world, especially in modern political history. Be it Milosevic of Yugoslavia, Saddam Hussain of Iraq or Taliban controlled Afghanistan. In these cases, NATO had to resort to war to achieve its goals. As I mentioned, the only victims of sanctions have been innocent citizens. Almost one million Iraqis died on account of sanctions between 1991 and 2001! Post Cold War sanctions have accounted for more deaths than the numbers that have died because of WMDs throughout history! Ironically, it has also been observed that most of the time, the regimes targeted by sanctions actually become stronger (during the period of sanctions) through corruption, black marketing, illegal arms trade, political lobbying and smuggling.
There are many more cases that can be pointed out. US and its allies are almost aloof to various dictatorial and oppressive regimes like those in Democratic Republic of Congo, Angola, Swaziland, Somalia and many more, especially the North African and oil-rich nations. For the uninitiated, US has vested interests related to trade and oil in these nations. It has imposed some sort of sanctions on Zimbabwe but more because of UK’s insistence as the British expatriates were being persecuted there!
Never have sanctions reaped any of the desired results. The concept of sanctions dates back to 431 BC when Athens imposed a ‘Megarian’ sanction on Megar. Eventually, this led to the infamous and prolonged Peloponnesian war. A study by the Institute for International Economics (IIE) in 2003 revealed that sanctions have only succeeded 33 per cent of the time globally. In 2010, the IIE extended their research and empirically proved that US had achieved its foreign policy objectives only in 13 per cent of the cases (where it imposed sanctions) between 1970 and 1997! This is despite the fact that US has been the frontrunner in the sanction imposing race. Since 1995, US has imposed around 90 economic sanctions on other countries. US had also slapped sanctions against India and Pakistan following their nuclear tests but subsequently lifted them as their strategic interest was not being met with the sanctions. Anyway, the lifting of sanctions in South Asia is more to free Pakistan than for India! In the post 9/11 era, US needed Pakistan’s help in fighting terror emanating from Afghanistan, and waiver of the said sanctions was the incentive, which subsequently led to huge military aid from the US to Pakistan (aid that was eventually used for sponsoring terrorism against India).
Without the slightest doubt, the current sanctions against Iran are going to hurt not only Iran but other nations too. China, India, and a considerable part of Europe would face a dearth in oil supplies; apart from these nations, even other nations that have significant bilateral and multilateral ties with Iran will face much difficulties during trade. Iran’s main means of sustenance is oil revenue, which supports more than half of its annual budget, as per figures revealed by IMF! By the end of July 2011, the annual revenues earned in Iran from oil exceeded $56 billion, as reported by the US Energy Department. Undoubtedly, the US interest in Iran is driven purely by oil – otherwise, they wouldn’t have made so much of a hue and cry for a regime change. A US-backed puppet government would make it easier for the US to redirect oil to their nation. Sounds quite similar to the Iraq and Afghanistan saga, doesn’t it?
US defense secretary Leon Panetta himself has admitted that Iran is not making a nuclear bomb yet! But given the double standards that US follows and political objectives they hide behind a hypocritical veil, Iran can’t expect a fate better than what was meted out to Iraq and Afghanistan. Clearly, after ruining Iraq and Afghanistan, the US is all set to capture Iran’s oil wealth. After all, all major OPEC nations are under their control... Well, all except Iran. But then, this move of Obama would never be easy, as politically and economically, Iran has much better resilience than other similarly placed nations. America should not underestimate Iran’s dedication to its self-respect, its courage to battle alone and its defiance against the might of NATO, just to protect its sovereignty.
A war or even a sanction at this point of time would ruin the US economy as well – something that happened post the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. All in all, Obama should not forget that in such situations, a winner loses more than the loser! But then, for oil, clearly there seems to be no difference between Obama and George Bush.
- 12 January 2012 |
- Dr. Arindam On America