Public Comment

Iran Sanctions Won't Work

By Kenneth Theisen
Thursday May 20, 2010 - 11:24:00 AM

Recently the U.S. and Iran have been engaged in an intense battle that involves both diplomacy and sanctions. On May 17, 2010 Iran announced a deal that would have Iran ship low-enriched uranium to Turkey in return for higher-enriched nuclear fuel for a medical research reactor. The announcement of the deal was intended by Iran to deter Russia and China from reaching an accord with the U.S. imposing tougher U.N. sanctions against Iran. 

This Iranian move was countered the next day by the U.S. when Secretary of State Clinton informed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, “We have reached agreement on a strong draft with the cooperation of both Russia and China. We plan to circulate that draft resolution to the entire Security Council today. And let me say, Mr. Chairman, I think this announcement is as convincing an answer to the efforts undertaken in Tehran over the last few days as any we could provide.” 

The agreement purportedly has the U.S., China, Russia, Great Britain, France and Germany on board to support the imposition of a fourth round of sanctions against Iran by the U.N. Security Council. Until this announcement most observers had thought that China and Russia would not support tougher sanctions. The U.S. claims the sanctions will force Iran to allow the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to inspect all suspected Iranian nuclear facilities which the U.S. accuses Iran of using to hide a secret nuclear weapons program. The U.S. further asserts that the sanctions will force Iran to turn over documents and allow the IAEA to interview Iranian scientists. 

At her Senate appearance, Clinton accused Iran of trying to undermine consensus around sanctions by its earlier announcement of the deal with Turkey, a U.S. NATO ally. She stated, “We don’t believe it was any accident that Iran agreed to this declaration as we are preparing to move forward in New York [at the U.N.]” She referred to the latest U.S. deal with Russia and China and other U.S. allies as one that will “rally the international community on behalf of a strong sanctions resolution that will, in our view, send an unmistakable message about what is expected from Iran.” 

At time of this writing, the content of the new sanctions agreement proposal is not known. It may contain some sort of ship inspections for ships carrying goods to Iran. It will certainly contain tougher sanctions aimed at Iranian financial institutions, particularly those run by or supporting Iranian military institutions such as the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. In the past the U.S. has also wanted to impose sanctions that would interfere with Iran’s ability to import refined petroleum products. Iran’s infrastructure is not sufficient to supply it with all its petroleum needs, despite the fact that it is one of the largest producers of oil. 

This latest round of diplomacy should not lead people to believe that the U.S. has abandoned other options to force Iran to bend to its imperialist will. Diplomacy and sanctions are just two of the weapons that the U.S. is using in this battle. As we are continually reminded by U.S. leaders - all options, including military options, are on the table in regard to Iran. The U.S. is currently waging wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. [The U.S. war in Pakistan to date has been limited to multiple missile strikes and covert special operations. But the U.S. has also bribed and pressured the Pakistani government and military to the extent that a civil war is now openly waged in that nation.] These nations border Iran. The U.S. also maintains naval armadas close to Iran and air bases that could launch aerial attacks against Iran. 

The U.S. has also been engaged in constant propaganda attacks against Iran. The accusation that Iran’s civilian uranium enrichment program is merely a cover for a nuclear weapons program has been made so many times that many people assume the accusation to be true, even though no evidence has been produced to prove it. The U.S. also continually reminds us that Iranian leaders suppress the Iranian people. This is true of the reactionary leadership of Iran, but then the U.S. propagandists fail to mention the CIA-led coup that overthrew the democratically elected leadership of Iran in 1953 that installed the reactionary Shah of Iran. 

They also fail to mention the quarter-of-a-century dictatorship of the Shah that was actively supported by the U.S. government until 1979 when the Shah was overthrown. But then these facts would only “confuse” people into thinking that the internal repression of the Iranian people was not really a concern for U.S. imperialist leaders and only being used as an excuse by them to rally support behind the U.S. imperialists so that they could eventually be in charge of the repression. Yes, the reactionary leaders of Iran deserve to be overthrown, but do not count on the reactionary leaders of U.S. imperialism to accomplish this. That is a task for the Iranian people and any reliance on imperialism will only result in further repression of the Iranian people. 

It is also important to remember that sanctions are not a weapon that only punishes the top reactionary leadership of Iran. Sanctions kill and are instruments of mass murder. We only need to look at the sanctions imposed on Iraq between the two Gulf wars. At least 500,000 Iraqis and possibly more than 1,000,000 were killed by those sanctions. Children died in the hundreds of thousands as a direct result of the sanctions regime imposed on Iraq. The same could happen in Iran. Murder is murder even if Iranians are not killed by U.S. bombs, but instead die of malnutrition or because they do not have access to medicines, electricity, or drinking water. Attacks on Iran by U.S. imperialism, whether they take the form of sanctions, diplomacy, propaganda, or military attacks need to be condemned and exposed. 


Kenneth J. Theisen is an East Bay resident and Steering Committee member of the World Can’t Wait.