Misdirected sanctions on Iran

President Obama has touted his administration’s efforts to impose ‘crippling’ sanctions on Iran. Congress has pressed for even stronger measures, and has included additional sanctions against Iran’s shipping industry in this year’s Defense Authorization Act. Mark Wallace of United Against Nuclear Iran wants to go further and has called for a “total economic blockade.” Lost in the frenzy to impose punishments on Iran is a consideration of how these measures are hurting ordinary people and undermining the presumed purposes of U.S. policy.


The increasingly draconian sanctions on Iran are supposedly directed at government leaders, but the greatest impacts are being felt by civilians. Especially harmful are the restrictions on Iran’s banking sector, which have significantly curtailed the country’s ability to finance imports. Among other consequences, these measures are making it very difficult to purchase advanced medical supplies and pharmaceuticals. U.S. newspapers report that chemotherapy drugs are becoming hard to obtain and increasingly unavailable. Medicines for people suffering from AIDS, hemophilia and other acute conditions are also in short supply, according to Al Jazeera.


Broad trade sanctions are, in effect, a form of collective punishment. They impose hardships on innocent people who have committed no offense and have no power over the religious clerics who decide their country’s nuclear policies.  Collective punishment is considered immoral in warfare and is specifically prohibited in the Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.


Broad trade sanctions are politically counterproductive. They undermine the moral legitimacy of nonproliferation efforts and weaken the prospects for democratic reform. They make life more difficult for reformers and human rights advocates in Iran, the very people Western governments claim to support. Many of the most courageous critics of the current regime, including Nobel Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi and former opposition presidential candidate Mir Hossain Moussavi, have spoken out against further sanctions.


Instead of adopting ever more severe unilateral trade measures, the United States should focus on implementing the targeted sanctions adopted by the UN. These measures freeze the financial assets and ban the travel of approximately 100 Iranian officials and entities that are directly responsible for the country’s nuclear program. They have the unanimous support of the Security Council, including China and Russia. The political support for these targeted sanctions could erode, however, if the humanitarian costs of unilateral sanctions continue to mount. The social harm caused by trade sanctions undermines the prospects for nonproliferation and human rights progress in Iran.

One thought on “Misdirected sanctions on Iran

  1. Thank you for your efforts towards peace.
    As you know there are as many kinds of peace as there are wars but not going to go into that now. Instead like to briefly study the sum of forces at work here rather than take a single approach as done in the hyperlinked article . What is the campaign against nuclear Iran is based on? Is the answer to this question based on facts? In my opinion the Iran regieme is following the nuclear path for different reasons than commonly is being thought of . The nuclear idea seems to keep the conflict between Iran and west alive. The hold to power could be one reason , keeping allies happy and helping in time of need could be another. The huge amount of wealth within reach of the regime saved and accumlating exceeds any limitations sactions could create so sactions are aimed to cause discontent and unrest after all. More questions: Where does the huge amounts of cash disappearing from Iran treasury (as reported ) goes? Is it just theft or just a way to cover up where it is spent? Leaders seems to be short of comptent and righteous men to run their errands and pick up the money and run or this is a cover up too?
    The oppressed will not rise as long as there is minimum food and shelter as long as there is no leader to lead them and there is fear of death and loss of loved ones and definitely sanctions are better than open war when the civil war needs time to be won from regimes point of view.
    At this point I agree with you on devising a sanction on the regime , its accounts in private banks and its allies rather than the innocent people if can be segregated . One thing is sure : chaos created by sanctions is being exploited vigorously by all sides and serves an ultimate and perilous future with minimum cost and effort . Kind regards

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