The Victims of Iran Sanctions

Originally appeared on The American Conservative.

Iranians’ access to medicine is being choked off by the Trump administration’s illegitimate reimposition of sanctions:

The number of European and Iranian banks conducting such transactions has dwindled, observers say. The refusal to process payments has alarmed Iranian importers. Some say they fear transactions with outside banks could cease altogether, prompting shortages of vital goods, including medicine.

“You just don’t know when other parties are going to be added or targeted. What was true yesterday may not be true this afternoon,” said Alan Enslen, an international trade lawyer at Baker Donelson in Washington, explaining how companies are weighing the risks.

When even reputable private banks such as Parsian Bank have been designated by the Trump administration, there is tremendous uncertainty about whether doing any business in Iran will be safe for European and other foreign companies. Most firms are going to avoid the risk, and that inevitably means that ordinary Iranians will lose access to vital imported goods or those goods will become prohibitively expensive for the vast majority of people that need them. The sanctions not only affect transactions for bringing in imported medicine, but they can also prevent the import of raw materials that Iran’s own pharmaceuticals need to make medicine. The result is that a great many sick people who were previously able to get the medicine they needed will be cut off from their treatment. The administration hides behind its formal exemption of humanitarian goods while implementing a policy that deprives people of those same goods. Iran hawks want to inflict pain on the population, but they don’t want to be held responsible for causing that pain.

Iranian cancer patients are being especially hard hit by the effects of sanctions. Doctors from the MAHAK Pediatric Cancer Treatment and Research Center in Tehran wrote in to The Lancet to warn about the shortages of essential medicine that will threaten the lives of their patients:

Re-establishment of sanctions, scarcity of drugs due to the reluctance of pharmaceutical companies to deal with Iran, and a tremendous increase in oncology drug prices (due to the plummeting value of the Iranian rial by 50–70%), will inevitably lead to a decrease in survival of children with cancer.

Here the mother of a child with cancer condemns the policy:

Children battling cancer are an unintended victim of American sanctions on Iran said one mother who made an impassioned plea for US President Donald Trump to ease her and her son’s suffering.

“Maybe I have the financial support to travel to neighbouring countries in order to provide medication, but what about other ordinary people? They are losing their child in front of their eyes. What about supporting human rights? A lot of people are saying human rights, so where is it? There is no support for human rights, it is just a claim,” said Maryam Haghverdilo.

The Trump administration claims that it wants to change Iranian regime behavior by forcing Tehran to agree to twelve unrealistic, maximalist demands, but there is no reason to think that the Iranian government will bow to these demands. Iranian officials remain adamant that they will make no changes because of the sanctions:

Iran’s deputy foreign minister has told a Spanish newspaper that his country will not change its policies in the face of United States sanctions, IRNA reported.

Sanctions rarely succeed in changing the behavior of the targeted government, but they are quite effective in causing hardship and misery for the civilian population. The Trump administration isn’t going to force the Iranian government to capitulate, but it is going to shorten the lives of many Iranians by strangling their economy and depriving them of the medicines they need.

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at The American Conservative, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and is a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Dallas. Follow him on Twitter. This article is reprinted from The American Conservative with permission.