Long-term sanctions are a form of war

23 January 2012

Long-term sanctions are a form of war

In his plea for a hard line against Iran, Paul Brill writes (Volkskrant 20-01-2012) that the West must prepare for a long-term embargo and “not begin to waver” when “reports of hungry children come from inside Iran.” That’s a remarkable opinion, given the effect on the Iranian economy of the sanctions which have already been imposed.

by Karel Koster

As early as last November the American media reported that it was principally the Iranian middle class that was being affected by the boycott measures already introduced. The damage, brought about by financial sanctions which impede the signing of ordinary contracts outside the country, comes on top of an inflation rate of more than 20% and a level of unemployment which exceeds 14.5%.

At the beginning of this month the rial, Iran’s currency, lost a third of its value. As a result, prices of foodstuffs such as bread, meat and rice have risen.
It is clear that these measures are in no sense affecting the Revolutionary Guard, let alone Iran’s ruling elite. The question thus presents itself as to why the previous ‘smart sanctions’ policy of the United Nations is being converted into such unilateral, strangling sanctions.

For the United States Senator Mark Kirk, this ‘strangling’ is precisely the aim. He declared in November that the American sanction measures were intended to bring the Iranian economy to the point of collapse.

In the 1990s the same battering ram-like course of action was pursued against Iraq. The results of this were worse than the ‘hungry children’ referred to by Paul Brill.
According to a study carried out by children’s rights organisation UNICEF, a UN agency, the mortality rate of death amongst children doubled. Over a period of eight years hundreds of thousands of children died as a consequence of these sanctions.

UN Assistant Secretary General Dennis Halliday, who was coordinator of the aid programme for Iraq, resigned in 1998, declaring in an interview with journalist John Pilger that he had been forced to carry out a policy which amounted to genocide.

Long-term, extended sanctions are not an alternative to war: they are a form of war.

Karel Koster works for the SP’s research bureau.

This article first appeared in the original Dutch on 23th January 2012 in the newspaper De Volkskrant.

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