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iran’s economy crippled by sanctions – why that’s not necessarily a good thing

November 14, 2013

What I took away from this press conference is: the US is the arbitrator of who gets to have what in the world, and we’ve crippled Iran’s day-to-day economy, making life for the average Iranian extremely fucking difficult. To many, is seems like the idea of imposing economic sanctions against other regimes in order to get them to comply with our demands is ethically justified, even if those sanctions ultimately just hurt the people and not the regime. I, on the other hand, disagree and find them to be barbaric to say the least since the whole point of sanctions is to hurt the people enough for them to pressure/topple said regimes.

Moreover, ethicalities aside, they have the potential to engender the opposite in the sense that regimes can use the suffering caused by sanctions to strengthen their power and justify their actions, turning the people against economic aggressor. “See? They’re hurting ‘you’ by these sanctions; they’re really ‘your’ enemy despite their rhetoric of freedom and justice and we’ll fight to defend ‘you.'” Meanwhile, innocent people go hungry and the leaders of these regimes usually stay in power (e.g., North Korea, Iran, etc.).

The issue of Iran’s nuclear developments is a serious and complex one, though, and it’s easy to see why the US is so concerned about the possibility of Iran developing a nuclear weapon. For one, it might instigate a nuclear arms race in the Middle East (although everyone knows Israel has them and it hasn’t done so). Iran also has a pretty negative image in general, and has been accused of supporting terrorism. In addition, it’d almost certainly bring the tension between Iran and Israel to a boiling point and potentially trigger a preemptive military strike by Israel, which has repeated threatened to do so, most likely with our support. It may even trigger a military response by the US itself.

I think that attacking Iran would be an extremely rash and stupid idea, however. For one, it’ll only reinforce the image of America as an international bully attacking yet another predominately Muslim nation, which will further radicalize people against us, particularly in the Middle East even if our ally, Israel, is the actual aggressor since everyone knows that we share close tactical relations and supply them with arms. This could not only instigate a fresh wave of terrorist attacks, but a full on global conflict. Moreover, both China and Russia are important trading partners with Iran, which would further strain relations between us and them, and could quite possibly instigate another cold war-style military buildup, especially with China as they won’t appreciate our or our allies’ militaristic forays into one of their main petroleum watering holes.

I’m honestly a bit confused about what’s truly going on, though. The rhetoric coming out of Israel and from certain talking-heads in Washington make it seem as if a nuclear-armed Iran is immanent. However, according to statements made by then-Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta last year, Iran isn’t developing nuclear weapons at the moment, only a ‘nuclear capability.’ While vague as to what that means, it could very well be for energy independence, as Iran asserts. If it’s true that they’re not currently developing nuclear weapons, what the hell is this really all about then? US hegemony? Oil? A fear of an energy-independent Iran?

This whole thing also raises the question, Do we have the right to prevent a country from developing nuclear energy simply because we’re afraid they may one day use that technology to produce nuclear weapons? Obviously we think we do, but that doesn’t mean the rest of the world necessarily agrees; and this is where even more future conflicts could potentially arise now that the nuclear cat is out of the bag and more and more countries begin to pursue this technology (North Korea being the newest addition to the club). Also, countries who don’t necessarily want to pursue nuclear weapons may still not appreciate the US declaring who can do so.

In addition, we hear a lot of talk about the threat from Iran; but we rarely hear about our threat to Iran, from our role in the 1953 CIA-organized coup that overthrew the democratically-elected Prime Minister, Mohammed Mossadeq, to our placement of military bases in the Middle East that literally surround Iran. So even assuming that all this talk about Iran pursuing nuclear weapons is true, can you really blame them? I mean, looking at it objectively, if I were them, I’d probably be a little paranoid about the US and want some kind of strategic deterrent, too.

All in all, it’s a fucking mess, and I don’t foresee an amiable solution any time soon. In fact, I see this biting us in the ass like most of our repeated interventions in the Middle East in the last 60 years or so. At some point, however, I think we, as a nation, need to take a critical look at our role in the world and the problems our fairly aggressive foreign policy, particularly in the Middle East, has caused. We’re not as innocent in this as we may like to believe, and we can’t continue to ignore the fact that our actions have a serious impact in a world where we’re one of the dominant powers.

To use the old cliché, with great power comes great responsibility; and frankly, we haven’t been all that responsible with our ‘superpower’ status, especially when it comes to trying to make the Middle East submit to our regional hegemony. Unlike Spider-man, who realized early on, after the death of his uncle, that his selfish pursuits and flagrant use of his superpowers had serious and often tragic consequences, we haven’t seemed to grasp that lesson yet, and continue to make the same mistakes over and over again. And while mistakes in some shape or form will always be made, we have to own up to ours and truly learn from them if we’re ever going to help put an end to this self-perpetuating cycle of violence.


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