The United States has a drawn-out history of imposing sanctions on Iran and has tightened these measures over time due to its alliance with Israel. The motives behind these sanctions are hyped as measures to prevent Iran from pursuing its enrichment program because of the perceived threat this program poses to Israel in the region. A closer look at what are touted as alternatives to war, have had equally severe consequences for the Iranian people at the expense of their civil liberties and livelihoods.
These sanctions have not only violated their fundamental rights to live economically free lives but are also now proving to have deemed and disregarded Iranian citizens as second class citizen of the world due to the inherent suppression the coded nature of these sanctions subjugates them to. The following list provides some direct insight into how these horrendous sanctions are directly affecting them:
- Sanctions have slowed Iran’s industrial and economic growth, considerably limited foreign investment and triggered national currency devaluation, hyperinflation, declining GDP and, last but not least, reduction of oil and gas production and export.
- Inflation has skyrocketed 18%. Sanctions have caused prices for food, rent, fuel and other basic necessities to rise steeply, by 100% in some instances.
- Oil sales, which account for 80 percent of the government’s revenue, have been cut in half.
- Unemployment has risen sharply, especially among youth, and inflation is likely to get even worse because of the depreciation of Iranian currency. Penalties are enacted on anyone facilitating “significant” transactions in the rial or holding significant amounts of the currency outside Iran. Intensifying sanctions against the country have sent the Iran’s rial into an unprecedented free-fall, causing it to plummet in value by 80% since the start of 2012.
- A US official said the move would force institutions to dump rial holdings and weaken the currency further. This is the first time the US has directly targeted the Iranian currency. “This promises to make Iran’s weak currency, even weaker and more volatile,” the US official was quoted as saying.”The idea here is to make the rial essentially unusable outside of Iran.”The Iranian currency has fallen significantly against the US dollar over the past couple of years, hurt by a slew of sanctions against Tehran’s key sectors.
- 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.
- 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 2012. Chicken has become so scarce for the average citizens, that when scant supplies become available they prompt riots. In some instances police in Tehran have had to fire tear-gas at people demonstrating over the rial’s collapse. The city’s main bazaar has had to be temporarily closed because of the impossibility of quoting accurate prices.
- 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.
- The effects of sanctions in Iran, in addition to expensive basic goods, include an aging and increasingly unsafe aircraft fleet. “According to reports from Iranian news agencies, 17 planes have crashed over the past 25 years, killing approximately 1,500 people.” The U.S. forbids aircraft manufacturer Boeing to sell aircraft parts to Iranian aviation companies.
- With businesses unable to fully function and the resulting downturn in domestic production, wages have decreased and the unemployment rate has increased. Economic sanctions on Iran ban Europe-based companies from providing raw materials to Iranian car manufacturers. As a result, Iranian companies have faced numerous problems in producing cars over the past few years. Subsequently, the country’s car exports have decreased by over 98% and thus resulted in heavy losses for the industry. These sanctions threaten to increase the already high unemployment rate, as the car manufacturing industry is the second largest employer in the country after the oil industry.
- Another particularly devastating effect of these financial sanctions is the inability of pharmaceutical companies to purchase and import basic life saving medicines, ranging from Tylenol to cancer medicine and even prenatal vitamins. Iranians have had to resort to the black market for access, which not only serves to strengthen informal power structures, but can also be medically dangerous. Even relatives in the U.S. are unable to send needed medicine to family members as USPS and other postal carriers interpret this as banned by the sanctions.
- Young people have also been blocked from leaving the country to study abroad as foreign universities have become overly cautious about admitting Iranian students and have cited sanctions as the reason. In a prominent case, a graduate student received a rejection letter from a university in Europe. The department chair specifically said that he wanted to extend an offer, but his hands were tied due to the sanctions.
- So horrific is the human suffering brought about by such sanctions regimes that some are beginning to argue that killing Iranians with an air attack would be more humane. That was the argument advanced several days ago by the managing editor of Foreign Policy magazine, Blake Hounsehll, who mused that he was “beginning to wonder if limited airstrikes on Iran may actually be the more morally sound course of action.” He was contemplating airstrikes, he then explained, because “a couple thousand deaths” might be worth it to avoid “the livelihoods of 75 million people destroyed”.
- What’s most extraordinary about all of this is that the extreme human suffering caused by US-led sanctions is barely acknowledged in mainstream American political discourse. One reason that Americans were so baffled after the 9/11 attack (why do they hate us?) is the same reason they continue to be so baffled by anti-American protests in the Muslim world (what are they so angry about?): namely, most Americans literally have no idea, because nobody ever told them, that their government’s imposition of sanctions in Iraq led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of children, and they similarly have no idea that the suffering of ordinary Iranians is becoming increasingly substantial.
As mentioned above, U.S. officials have made their intentions clear about how these sanctions are designed to “make Iran’s weak currency even weaker and more volatile,” in order to punish the Iranian people. The Iranians’ suffering will persist while the government goes about further increasing sanctions and as U.S. and Israel come closer to military attack. In this context, it is important to note that maintaining the sanctions and continuing the Iranian people’s oppression has counter-productively made the Iranian government more convinced that the United States is not serious about engagement and is committed to following its own agenda at their expense.
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