Push For ‘Crippling Economic Sanctions’ May Strengthen Iranian Government, Hurt Ordinary Iranians

Reposted by arrangement with Think Progress

The International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) eagerly awaited report on Iran’s nuclear program delivered few surprises and, while offering details of a number of dual-use technologies under development in Iran, did not assert that Iran had resumed a full-scale nuclear weapons program. Eager to capitalize on the media coverage of the IAEA report, congressional hawks are pushing to impose “crippling” sanctions on the Iranian central bank, a step that would have devastating economic and political effects in Iran and, potentially, send oil prices skyrocketing.

The White House indicates that such measures are “not really currently on the table” but some of the more right-wing voices in Washington are eager to impose such drastic sanctions.

Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL), who has threatened to “take food out of the mouths” of Iranians, issued a statement on Monday, announcing he will lead a bipartisan campaign of 92 senators to enact sanctions against Bank Markazi, Iran’s central bank.

Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA) issued a statement saying:

Time is short and options are limited. Last week, I proposed moving forward and sanctioning the very core of Iran’s financing of its nuclear program: the Central Bank of Iran. I urge President Obama to make the Central Bank of Iran’s proliferation activity the target of coordinated multilateral sanctions.

And GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney said that, as president, he would impose “crippling economic sanctions” on Iran’s central bank.

But a closer look at what central bank sanctions might entail raises serious questions.

Central bank sanctions may disrupt oil markets and damage U.S. and global economic recoveries; weaken multilateral sanctions efforts if U.S. allies are unwilling to sign on; and extract a shocking humanitarian toll on ordinary Iranian civilians.

In fact, central bank sanctions may run counter to U.S. interests and actually strengthen the Iranian regime. Mehdi Karroubi, an influential reformist politician in Iran, warns that “sanctions have given an excuse to the government to suppress the opposition by blaming them for the unstable situation in the country,” and CNN’s Fareed Zakaria writes, “[Sanctions’] basic effect has been to weaken civil society and strengthen the state — the opposite of what we should be trying to do in that country.”

Proponents of central bank sanctions say that it is the only way to prevent a nuclear armed Iran and a military confrontation. But the reality is that central bank sanctions have a bad track record of failing to achieve their aims and, according to University of Chicago Professor Robert Pape, “economic sanctions are often a prelude to using military force.”

Eli Clifton

Eli Clifton reports on money in politics and US foreign policy. He is a co-founder of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft. Eli previously reported for the American Independent News Network, ThinkProgress, and Inter Press Service.


One Comment

  1. US/Israeli led efforts to strangle the Iranian economy via crippling sanctions is also being rebuffed by the Russians and the Chinese as they fail to see any value in further stifling legitimate and vital business activities simply to placate AIPAC’s flunkies in the US Congress. Looking to keep everybody talking and saber rattling to a minimum, the Russians and Chinese are putting the kibosh on “unwarranted pressures” being ratcheted up.

    With the United States fresh out of credibility after the WMDs that never materialized in Iraq and the world’s view of Benjamin Netanyahu being an “outright lier”, (according to France’s Nickolas Sarkozy) its difficult to see how they’ll get much traction on their push for military options going forward.

    Still, unilateral action may be lingering in the minds of “the mad” since the diplomatic option has been removed from the table. Recently, a key congressional committee approved two bills that would impose the severest sanctions thats been leveled to date. Among the drastic measures is a creatively restrictive revision that would make it illegal for US officials to even speak to Iranian officials.

    Here’s the skinny: Section 601:

    (c) RESTRICTION ON CONTACT – No person employed with the United States Government may contact in an official or unofficial capacity any person that –
    (1) is an agent, instrumentality, or official of, is affiliated with, or is serving as a representative of the Government of Iran; and
    (2) presents a threat to the United States or is affiliated with terrorist organisations.

    (d) WAIVER – The president may waive the requirements of subsection (c) if the president determines and so reports to the appropriate congressional committees 15 days prior to the exercise of waiver authority that failure to exercise such waiver authority would pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the vital national security interests of the United States.

    In other words, the President of the United States has to get permission from an Israeli controlled Congress to even converse with Iranians. Despite outgoing Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Michael Mullen’s, appeal for Washington to engage Iran through any channel available in hopes that the two countries will avoid dangerous miscalculations in their relationship, the US has closed the door to deplomacy tighter than a nun’s…

    How legislation could be written that would effectively forbid a sitting president from diplomatic engagement with another nation is one of those many mysteries that need solving immediately. It begs one to ask; who the hell is running this country anyway? Don’t answer that, its a rhetorical question everyone knows the answer to.

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