Reports from Iran about a deadly airplane crash on Sunday that killed 77 passengers remain unclear regarding the cause of the accident. But the crash should serve to highlight the poor air safety record of Iranian passenger jets and the potential dangers of sanctions that ban the export of civilian aircraft parts to Iran.
Neoconservatives and Iran hawks have been quick to push for any and all sanctions imaginable that may pressure Iran to give up its alleged nuclear program. Back in April, American Enterprise Institute (AEI) fellow Michael Rubin wrote about how the sanctions should impact the lives of ordinary Iranians.
In a footnote to his Commentary article titled “Iran: The Case for Regime Change,” Rubin wrote:
While Iranian groups lobby on humanitarian grounds for the Obama administration to waive sanctions on airplane parts, citing the frequent domestic Iranian air crashes, the White House should refuse, especially since the Iranian government cannibalizes civilian planes to outfit military aircraft. Tehran is eight hours by bus from both Tabriz and Isfahan, but just an hour’s flight. Iranians, not surprisingly, prefer to take the heavily subsidized one-hour flight. But flying is not a right; it is a luxury.
Perhaps flying is not a right but, given Iran’s horrible air safety record, it also seems somewhat crass to describe aircraft reliability and safety as “a luxury.”
The New York Times wrote yesterday:
Iran’s air industry has been plagued by safety concerns for years, at least in part because international sanctions have prevented the country from purchasing new American and European aircraft and spare parts for the ones it has.
Iran’s American-built aircraft were purchased before Iran’s 1979 revolution, when the two countries cut off relations. Airlines, including Iran’s flagship carrier, Iran Air, have struggled to keep those planes, as well as aging and often unreliable aircraft bought from Russia and other former Soviet states, in service.
Indeed, it’s important to wait before drawing conclusions about the cause of this plane crash–but the accident, and large civilian death toll, should make proponents of sanctions that target civilians aware of the potential costs of such policies. Perhaps more importantly, hawks, like Michael Rubin, should be forced to explain how endangering Iranian travelers will help bring about regime change in Tehran.
Back in February, Senior Media Matters Fellow MJ Rosenberg wrote of the sanctions that target civilians, including those that ban the export of airplane parts to Iran, that:
Smart sanctions would help bring down the Iranian regime or, at the very least, make it more open to negotiations over its nuclear plans. To be “smart,” however, they must target the regime and not the Iranian people. The House and Senate passed sanctions are not only dumb, they are the very kind of sanctions Ahmadinejad would devise if it was up to him.