Yet again, the US and its allies spread mass human misery though a policy that is as morally indefensible as it is counter-productive
By Glenn Greenwald
An Iranian man counts his banknotes after Iran’s currency, the rial, crashed to a record low Photograph: Abedin Taherkenareh/EPA
The Economist this week describes the intensifying suffering of 75 million Iranian citizens as a result of the sanctions regime being imposed on them by the US and its allies [my emphasis]:
“Six years ago, when America and Europe were putting in place the first raft of measures to press Iran to come clean over its nuclear ambitions, the talk was of “smart” sanctions. The West, it was stressed, had no quarrel with the Iranian people—only with a regime that seemed bent on getting a nuclear bomb, or at least the capacity for making one. Yet, as sanctions have become increasingly punitive in the face of Iran’s intransigence, it is ordinary Iranians who are paying the price.
“On October 1st and 2nd Iran’s rial lost more than 25% of its value against the dollar. Since the end of last year it has depreciated by over 80%, most of that in just the past month. Despite subsidies intended to help the poor, prices for staples, such as milk, bread, rice, yogurt and vegetables, have at least doubled since the beginning of the year. Chicken has become so scarce that when scant supplies become available they prompt riots. On October 3rd police in Tehran fired tear-gas at people demonstrating over the rial’s collapse. The city’s main bazaar closed because of the impossibility of quoting accurate prices. . . .
“Unemployment is thought to be around three times higher than the official rate of 12%, and millions of unskilled factory workers are on wages well below the official poverty line of 10m rials (about $300) a month.”
That sanctions on Muslim countries cause mass human suffering is not only inevitable but part of their design. In 2006, the senior Israeli official Dov Weisglass infamously described the purpose of his nation’s blockade on Gaza with this candid admission: “‘The idea is to put the Palestinians on a diet, but not to make them die of hunger.” Democratic Rep. Brad Sherman justified the Iran sanctions regime this way: “Critics of sanctions argue that these measures will hurt the Iranian people. Quite frankly, we need to do just that.”
Even more infamously, the beloved former Democratic Secretary of State Madeleine Albright – when asked in 1996 by 60 Minutes’ Lesley Stahl about reports that 500,000 Iraqi children had died as a result of US-imposed sanctions on that country – stoically replied: “I think this is a very hard choice, but the price – we think the price is worth it.” So extreme was the suffering caused by sanctions in Iraq that one former UN official, Dennis Halladay, resigned in protest, saying that the sanctions policy met the formal definition of “genocide”:
“We are now in there responsible for killing people, destroying their families, their children, allowing their older parents to die for lack of basic medicines. We’re in there allowing children to die who were not born yet when Saddam Hussein made the mistake of invading Kuwait.”
In an excellent Op-Ed for Al Jazeera last week, Murtaza Hussain extensively documented the devastation wrought on 26 million Iraqis by that sanctions regime – the one Albright declared as “worth it” – and argues: “that tragedy is being willfully replayed, only this time the target is the population of Iran”. He explained:
“Intensifying sanctions against the country have sent the Iran’s rial into an unprecedented free-fall, causing it to plummet in value by 75 per cent since the start of the year; and, stunningly, almost 60 per cent in the past week alone.
“Ordinary Iranians completely unconnected to the government have had their lives effectively ground to a halt as the sudden and unprecedented collapse of the financial system has rendered any meaningful form of commerce effectively impossible. In recent weeks, the price of staples such as rice and cooking oil have skyrocketed and once ubiquitous foods such as chicken have been rendered completely out of the reach of the average citizen.”