The (Many) Problems with the Iran Sanctions Bill

It now appears that the Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act (IRPSA), Howard Berman’s sanctions bill targeting Iran’s refined petroleum sector, is likely to come up for a vote in the near future. AIPAC and other hawkish “Israel lobby” groups have made the sanctions bill their top priority for months now, and today brought news that the more moderate J Street is planning to go along with the sanctions bill.

For a comprehensive overview of why this is such bad news, see this post by Lara Friedman of Americans for Peace Now (APN). She includes a very thorough table summarizing all the flaws with the bill and recommendations for how it could be improved. The upshot, she writes, is that the Berman bill “leads to the very problematic conclusion that the US is seeking to inflict widespread suffering on the Iranian people in order to force them to put pressure on their government.”

Sanctions proponents’ reasoning is based on the rather dubious belief that if the U.S. starves the Iranian civilian population of resources they will blame their own government rather than ours. It is much the same logic that has led Israel to blockade Gaza for the past two and a half years, only to see Hamas become stronger than ever as a result; similarly, sanctions against Iraq in the 1990s killed hundreds of thousands of civilians (by the most conservative estimates) while doing nothing to weaken Saddam Hussein’s hold on power.

Of course, the overwhelming evidence suggests that unilateral sanctions will prove ineffectual in any case. In recent years the Iranian government has moved to decrease its reliance on refined petroleum imports in anticipation of sanctions, and without Russian and Chinese cooperation the measure is likely to have virtually no bite. But since “effective” sanctions would mean in practice “successful in inflicting hardship on the Iranian civilian population,” then “ineffectual” would seem to be the best that we can hope for — better ineffectual than actively pernicious. Of course, best of all would be to do no harm in the first place. While some seem to be calculating that acquiescing on sanctions is necessary to stave off war, it is hard to see what positive result could possibly come from the deeply misguided Berman bill.

14 thoughts on “The (Many) Problems with the Iran Sanctions Bill”

  1. Being acquainted with Iranian culture I tend to believe the claim that:

    “during Iran-Iraq war, after 1000s of Iranian soldiers suffered horrendous deaths due to Iraqi chemical bomb attacks, a foreign company offered Iran the capability of producing similar chemical weapons. The Iranians rejected it on the moral grounds”.

    I also believe they are not after the bomb. The intense Iranian desire for progress in technology is paramount. (Unless they are badly cornered to defend themselves)

    I am also inclined to believe if Iran stops the enrichment, some of Iran’s powerful adversaries will come up with new excuses to hinder the progress of Iran. Also, the imprudent animosities of the West towards Iran is hindering it from becoming a true democracy. By more pressure more and more Iranians are reluctantly joining the side of their medieval regime (as they did in 1979).

    Is that what the warmongers in the West want? Hard to see the Iranian pictures clearly.

    1. Ever the cynic, I think that renewed mass popular support for the Iranian government is EXACTLY what the Amerikan warmongers and their Israeli handlers want. If the Iranian regime has popular support, then the wholesale bombing and murder of civilians can be much more easily justified, since they can more easily be seen as indistinguishable from the "evil regime" itself. It's the same strategy that the Israeli regime has used against the Palestinians of occupied Gaza; the greater numbers of desperate Gazans who support the radical Hamas government, the more justified Israel is in killing them, since THEY, and not just their government, are also "the enemy."

      1. This is nonsense. America wants to destabilize and overthrow the Iranian government through its colored-coded "Green revolution" (i.e. .coup d'etat) that most imperial Americans were cheerleading earlier this year.

        The question that is never raised by so-called American peace organizations is what moral and political right does the American Empire have to sanction or "regime change" a sovereign nation like Iran in the first place?

        There is only justification: America is a ruthless empire and does what it wants.

        And the supposed "opposition" to US sanctions is purely tactical in nature–like that of Lara Friedman and Americans for Peace Now (APN) who advocate a more "effective" form of American economic terrorism and warfare against Iran.

        Such is what passes for the American peace movement (sic).

        This movement has as much credibility as the American war criminal in chief, Barack Obama, winning the Nobel Peace Prize–which is to say: less than zero.

        A phony political opposition for a phony American democracy.

        This is the vaunted American Way.

        1. Statistical analysis of the two American TFT (Terror Free Tomorrow), WOP (World Opinion) polls and the actual results published by Iranian Ministry of Interior has revealed astounding results.

          Now there is no doubt the election was legitimate and if there were any irregularities they can be considered as “ Statistically Insignificant", since the mismatch between the polls and real results are very small.

          Now it is clear the genuine dissatisfactions of the followers of the Iranian Reform movement were USED by outside powers to de-legitimise the IRI and possibly pave the way for a war (as in Iraq). They astonishingly succeeded in convincing the sheep and impartial honest scholars alike that there was a definite fraud in the election..

          The publication of WOP was a hard blow to the allegations of the corporate media. None of them withdrew from their contrived stance, they only changed their vocabulary. Now instead of “fraudulent” they use “disputed” or “contested” election. Some who always trumpet the war cries still use their old deceiving language to categorize the election as egregious

    2. I tend to believe that too. But the survival of Iran as a viable nation probably depends on them having a nuclear weapon, unfortunately….

  2. The Zionist cause has reached its terminal phase wherein it is motivated by hatred alone. Zionism has no positive goals anymore, it exists solely to destroy its neighbors. It is poisonous.

  3. Perhaps the biggest problem is that isolating Iran and imposing sanctions is not in America's interestse. The corrupt American government is simply doing what the Israeli lobby is telling it to do.

  4. Andy – Of course, just as America could never get its collective head around the fact that 9-11 occurred mostly because of our slavish devotion to Zionism. This fact was clearly identified by Bin Ladin (aka the Big Guy in charge). But the MSM made it a tabboo subject. We were subjected to endless phony analysis, jingoism, and emotionalism; but not one mention of that FACT. And then the Israeli-Firsters worked tirelessly together to lie and scheme our way into an invasion of Iraq. That being such a success in so far as destroying one neighbor of Israel, we are now being conned into getting another (Iran) destroyed.

  5. The real question is whether China and Russia will give the nod to these sanctions. Personally I don't see either of them doing it, so hopefully this keeps Iran from being totally destroyed. They do have loads of oil and both China and Russia (and the U.S) will be needing it pretty soon….

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